For the last 80 years, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has tested virtually every piece of equipment used by our Warfighter.
Munitions, artillery, and aircraft testing all have one thing in common — they all need targets.
Firing systems’ accuracy cannot be tested without targets. Aircraft and drones cannot test the functionality of their radars without a target to track. Targets are vital to testing.
The team at the Threat Systems Target Simulations (TSTS) shop have been amazing YPG and beyond with their target creations. From silhouettes to high-fidelity mobile targets, the team can fabricate it.
“We don’t say ‘no’ to much-- we’ll figure it out, we’ll design it,” said Randy Ehrlich TSTS supervisor.
The team is made up of fabrication experts, electronic technicians, mechanics, welders, and operators, most of whom have commercial driver’s licenses.
“We are very rounded,” remarked Ehrlich.
TSTS personnel travel often because they not only create targets, they operate and maintain the foreign targets. Where the targets go, they go. These targets can be as simple as a silhouette of a person or they can be elaborate, such as a replica of a foreign threat system.
The TSTS team can make the targets mobile as well. They have converted motorcycles, trucks, and weapon systems serving as a target, to be operated by remote control. They have the ability to make both low and high-speed speed remote controlled targets.
Other mobility options involve hydraulics and rotating parts. These features are mainly used when testing radars. Another feature added for radar testing is heat.
Ehrlich explains, “The sensors have a higher capability of detection and they can detect what’s real and what’s fake. The closer you can get it to the real thing, the better off it is for our sensor development.”
The team has replicated foreign threat systems that U.S. adversaries would use. When replicating a piece of equipment, they have never seen in person, scaling becomes a valuable skill.
Senior Electronic Technician Jose Velazquez explains that fabricators need to be able to scale from a photo.
“There are none in country, you can’t find these targets and cannot find exact dimensions. One of the innovative things they do is scaling these targets without ever having seen one in person,” he said.
The team doesn’t use software; they hand draw the designs. They also cut most of the target’s internal metal by hand and use a CNC plasma machine to cut the external shell.
A common question they get asked is if it is difficult to see their creations destroyed?
“If it worked and it got the training or testing done, that’s where our job feels fulfilled,” said Velazquez.
“As soon as the target is destroyed, that’s direct feedback that my mission was accomplished.”
Even while their targets are constantly shot at and blown-up, the steel targets have an 80% reusability factor.