For some 10 years Army helicopters have had a system to warn the aircrew of missiles and small arms fire. For a number of years, these Missile Warning Systems (MWS), under the Army’s Project Management Office for Aircraft Survivability Equipment (PMO-ASE), have been tested and upgraded at Dugway Proving Ground.
Recently, VIPs from PMO-ASE were invited to witness separate launches of two inert missiles, whose flights will add to the system’s repertoire of data that warns the aircrew.
“This is one of the best places for us to do this kind of testing,” said visiting Col. Kevin Chaney, Project Manager for PMO-ASE of Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. “It’s operationally relevant, with the height of the mountains. It gives us the ability to put systems in there and try them all out.”
Maj. Nathan Klein, visiting Assistant Program Manager for MWS, was pleased by the testing.
“We’re able to get all the test shots they’re looking for,” he said. “We’re getting good data to take back and review, to analyze system performance.”
The MWS is mounted on a tower, with the tower placed on a peak hundreds of feet above the launch site, miles away. The altitude and distance of the MWS replicate a helicopter in flight while an enemy missile is launched.
“We’re testing the software against threats that the system wasn’t tested against,” said Derek Schumann, Project Test Officer for the Special Programs Division of DPG’s West Desert Test Center.
In 2019, testing employed a missile simulator for the MWS sensors to detect. In 2020, MWS’ sensitivity to small arms fire was tested. This year, it’s identifying the threat of actual missiles.
“The more variables they can throw at it -- different missile types, angles of approach, time of flight and launcher configurations -- the smarter it becomes. The more effective it is at detecting fired enemy missiles, and warning the flight crew of the threat,” said Schumann.
Because of Dugway’s vastness (1,250 square miles) and controlled airspace, distance from launch to target is readily changed, creating more variables for MWS’ data.
“The increased distance makes it harder to detect, but adds to the repertoire of data and may give flight crews extra time for evasive action,” Schumann said.
Because missiles are expensive and in short supply, the Army isn’t alone in its testing of a missile warning system – the Air Force, Navy, industry and foreign partners have also “piggybacked” onto the test with their own systems.
“Most of the systems under test are our (Army) systems, Col. Chaney said. “Our organization (PMO-ASE) is paying the big bill.”
This year, 66 shot events are scheduled, 49 have been fired. Testing continued through March, and will resume this summer.
“This test highlights two great things about Dugway Proving Ground, said installation Commander Col. Scott Gould. “First, it demonstrates the unique geography of Dugway to meet specific conditions required by PMO-Aviation Survivability Equipment. More importantly, it highlights the collaboration and ingenuity of the entire Dugway Proving Ground team. It takes multiple divisions from the West Desert Test Center working in unison to make any test successful. Seeing our folks in action facilitating the test and ensuring it is successful is one of the things I most enjoy as the Commander.”