Chem/Bio Facilities Get Enhanced Testing Upgrade

By Al VogelNovember 19, 2021

Three Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) facilities used to test chemical and biological agent detectors with simulated agent recently received upgrades that will improve the testing experience for participants.

The Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel (JABT) is 550 feet long, 55 feet wide and 65 feet high. It tests chemical and biological agent detectors under controlled conditions by creating an adjustable breeze along its length, carrying simulated chemical or biological agent across them.

The JABT’s two massive doors were replaced, one under warranty and the other requiring Joint Program Executive Office (JPEO) funds, according to Nathan Lee, Physical Scientist with DPG’s West Desert Test Center.

While the doors were being installed, an intense storm in northwestern Utah damaged the JABT’s interior ceiling panels, rendering it inoperable for the upcoming TECFT test. To meet a very short timeline for repairs, the DPG/Contractor team mobilized and repaired it within four weeks -- three days before the internationally visible test began, and in record time.

HHI Corporation repaired tears in the inner fabric wall and four of the damaged panels, two of which required replacement of entire truss frames that had to be ordered from Canada. In spite of COVID-related delays, the trusses and other necessary supplies arrived in time. Jacobs Engineering repaired 12 of 14 interior panels.

Upgrades to JABT’s computer operating system, Programmable Logic Controller and Command and Control room computers were completed before the storm.

East of the JABT is the Active Standoff Chamber (ASC), a 440-foot long structure with an open ended inner chamber that holds simulated biological agent between two air curtain downdrafts. The capabilities of the ASC allows standoff detectors at the distant Staging Facility to “see” and identify the airborne simulant with lasers.

Upgrades to the ASC include new networking and electrical systems inside the facility, the construction of eight laptop stations, a communication upgrade and new switches in its adjacent command building.

Upgrades to the Staging Facility, 1,000 meters east of the ASC, are numerous: outdoor receptacles providing power from a portable generator for up to eight instrument trailers, asphalt around the facility to reduce dust, water piped from Ditto Area instead of the current holding tank, an improved septic system and – for tester comfort and convenience – a refurbished control room with seating for 20, counters, storage space, pegboard for equipment hooks, and two 65-inch TV monitors.

“The idea is that the standoff test participants can be at the Staging Facility with their instruments and watch a live view of the test from the JABT,” said Physical Scientist Josh Herron.

Together, the three facilities are, “a national asset, just awesome facilities,” said Lee. “There’s been a tremendous amount of work done on them.”