Future Vertical Lift-related demonstration at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- It has become well-known that Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) testing actively supports six of the Army Futures Command's Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) building the Army's future force.

The first in what is likely to be many tests related to the Future Vertical Lift CFT, which seeks to develop the next generation of vertical takeoff and lift aircraft, occurred at YPG in late August with a demonstration of the SPIKE non-line-of-sight (NLOS) air-to-ground missile, a currently-fielded Israeli weapon with approximately four times as much range as the Hellfire or Joint Air Ground Missile currently used by American forces.

"The missile we are firing gives the opportunity for the Army to have more reach, more standoff, more lethality that it has had in the past to address our near-peer threats," said Col. Matthew Isaacson, Future Vertical Lift CFT lead. "We use these demonstrations to inform our requirements and to ensure that we're not writing a requirement for something that is unrealistic."

The family of SPIKE NLOS missiles have been utilized by the Israeli Defense Forces for several decades. Featuring manual and automatic modes, it achieves optimal range in automatic, but can be successfully utilized in degraded navigation environments while being manually-guided. For the first demonstration, the testers fired the Spike from an AH-64E Apache helicopter hovering 200 feet above the highest obstacle in a complex terrain environment at a mock-up of a SA-15 vehicle 28.5 kilometers away. A key part of the demonstration involved intentionally losing the guidance data-link to the missile just prior to impact to determine whether it would still strike its target: it did so in a fiery explosion.

Among the bevy of officials who travelled to YPG to witness the test were the Honorable James McPherson, the senior official performing the duties of Undersecretary of the Army, and Gen. John Murray, Commanding General of Army Futures Command. Murray is the first four star general to visit the proving ground since then-Vice Chief of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli came to observe a test of the Precision Guidance Kit artillery fuse in 2011.

"This is important to senior leadership and we will attend these demonstrations to exhibit that importance," said McPherson. "It's important that the people put developing the next tip of the spear know that the folks in the Pentagon are truly interested, truly focused, and want to help them get their job done."

Murray pointed out that the intent of the testing was more about demonstrating capabilities rather than committing to a particular missile.

"One of the things Army Futures Command is trying very hard to do is prove out a technology before we pursue it," said Murray. "This was an attempt to prove that the technology is mature enough and that we can use it operationally. We're testing multiple scenarios where this capability could be of value."

Murray left the proving ground impressed by the professionalism of the workforce and the robust test infrastructure and vast range space that YPG boasts.

"The range facilities, especially with the Air Force and Marine Corps partners to the south, are incredibly impressive," said Murray. "Most people do not recognize the incredible importance of the Army Test and Evaluation Command facilities. It's all about making sure that when we put a capability in warfighter hands it's safe and we know what it is going to do--we absolutely couldn't do this without facilities like Yuma."