Three facilities that test the accuracy and effectiveness of chemical and biological detectors are being upgraded, according to Physical Scientist Nathan Lee, of Dugway Proving Ground’s West Desert Test Center.
The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, based in Maryland, is funding the upgrade.
The 440-foot-long Active Standoff Chamber (ASC) is having its exterior command post upgraded with a battery backup to its power, and more lines for data and communication. Within the adjacent ASC building, data and communication lines with eight plug-in stations for laptops and other instruments are being permanently mounted to the chamber exterior. This will be more convenient for personnel during testing, and will eliminate safety concerns over cables on the floor.
Minor maintenance of the ASC is also being conducted, Lee said.
The ASC has a long, inner tunnel with controllable downdrafts at both ends that prevent the simulant from escaping. At the Staging Facility, 1,000 meters east of the ASC, standoff detectors – who “see” a cloud of biological agent without being exposed to it – are tested. The air downdraft is required, because glass or plastic would interfere with the detector’s ability to detect biological threats at long range.
The Staging Facility itself is getting an electrical upgrade to accommodate a large, portable generator to provide more power if needed during testing. Additionally, up to eight trailers that customers park outside the building will receive the added power through hookups.
At the 550-foot-long Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel (JABT), the 50-foot-high doors will be reworked at both ends in August. The entire east end door will be replaced, while the curtain on the west end will be replaced. The JABT was constructed in 2005, and has become worn, Lee said.
The open-ended JABT replicates a breeze with powerful fans that pull in outside air and move it along the tunnel’s length until it’s discharged. Within the tunnel, “point” detectors are exposed to a chemical or biological agent while they sample the air. Only simulated agent is used. The JABT allows point detector testing when wind or precipitation would otherwise postpone an outdoor test.
The facility upgrades will be completed before the next Technology Experimentation and Characterization Field Trials (TECFT) in summer 2022. TECFT invites manufacturers and users of chemical and biological detectors to bring them for testing with simulated agent released outdoors in authentic scenarios.
Each participant receives exclusive data, so they may compare their detector’s data with the data from Dugway’s referee detectors. Participants do not see each other’s results or trial data, so capabilities remain guarded.
Previously known as S/K Challenge, the two-week TECFT was first offered in 2014. International participants have included Canada, France, Norway, Poland, United Kingdom, Finland, Israel, Spain and New Zealand.
Under the Deputy Undersecretary of the Army for Test and Evaluation, future TECFTs may be expanded to include protection and decontamination testing for customers.