Yuma Proving Ground’s status as the Department of Defense’s premier test and evaluation facility is greatly aided by its geographic isolation.
Possessing over 1,300 square miles of range space, the proving ground can safely test virtually every piece of equipment used by Soldiers, even dangerous items like long-range artillery.
Though YPG does not have to contend with encroachment from houses and buildings, it is not exempt from the crowded radio spectrum that facilitates much of modern life. Every time you use a cell phone, microwave oven, or garage door opener, you are using parts of the radio spectrum, the invisible resource that YPG testers rely on to support their highly specialized testing, from using radar and telemetry in evaluation of artillery rounds to replicating the radio spectrum as it is in various places around the world to facilitate the testing of technologies to defeat roadside bombs.
Maintaining these unique capabilities without competing needs interfering with each other is only possible thanks to the careful management of the air waves by the spectrum management office (SMO), a small office with a large mission.
“We are lucky because we have enough space to separate testers,” said Derek Landry, spectrum manager. “If you can control the frequency, bandwidth, power, and also the location of the test, you can accommodate everyone in most testing scenarios. If you saturate the environment with too much equipment, that takes away from your testing ability because there is only so much spectrum.”
The spectrum management office’s responsibilities are a bilateral affair: not only must they insulate important tests from electronic interference, they also make sure YPG’s projects do not interfere with spectrum users outside the installation.
More importantly, perhaps, is carefully assigning radio frequencies. Test officers who need to use radar or telemetry to support their projects must submit requests weeks or months in advance, and all radios used on the range must be approved by the SMO, a process that involves getting specific spectrum assignments from the DOD Area frequency coordinator.
“YPG has a substantial amount of frequency assignments, some of which are band assignments that we are able to support similar emitters, it just depends on frequency, bandwidth and power requirements.”
The SMO orchestrates the seamless use of electronic equipment by everyone on YPG who needs it with good test planning. In rare instances where problems occur, the office responds rapidly.
“Very rarely is there interference, but it is usually pretty obvious where the interference is coming from. It’s possible that a customer may be utilizing an emitter that they did not coordinate use of and are receiving interference from another tester that has a current assignment.”
The spectrum management office’s responsibilities are a bilateral affair, too: not only must they insulate important tests from electronic interference, they also make sure YPG’s projects do not interfere with spectrum users outside the installation.
“It’s not likely that YPG’s testing would ever interfere with commercial spectrum. It could possibly happen with other government spectrum users, but we would be notified quickly and rectify it immediately.”