By Jenna CandelariaDecember 9, 2009
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, Nov. 26, 2009 - A recent software upgrade in counter bombing testing led to a new two week test period at White Sands Missile Range beginning on Nov. 5 in order to more effectively locate suicide bombers.
Testing director Imelda Barron said the original counter bomber software from July 2008 only located male suicide bombers, but an upgrade now allows the software to locate female suicide bombers as well.
"Due to the large increase in female suicide bombers, the software had to be changed," Barron said. "The main purpose is safety in preventing suicide bombers."
The testing data goes to the U.S. Department of Defense agency called Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) for further study, but Barron said this is not the team's first experience with JIEDDO.
"We are constantly working with JIEDDO," Barron said.
The test had thirty volunteers walking in two phases, the first a rural setting in the desert and the second an urban setting near a gravel road, with and without the threat devices strapped to the bodies of the walkers.
NewTec employee Francine Marcoux was one of the volunteers to walk in phase one in the desert area on White Sands Missile Range and said she found the experience "fascinating".
"I thought it was an extremely worthwhile experiment," Marcoux said. "I was very excited to participate.
Marcoux said the women wore burkhas, the cloaking fabric in some Islamic traditions, on one of the three cycles in three different exercises on the Nov. 7 rural testing. Marcoux said the walkers would wear the garment with and without the threat device.
"Most of us have no idea how it would feel to walk around in a burkha," Marcoux said. "It's something I've never done before."
Barron said the software detects the threats based on body mass, which differs between men and women.
"The test went really well," Barron said. "We're just trying everything so we can send the best data to Washington D.C."
The participants walked wearing aluminized Mylar as well as "threat" vests to simulate what Barron said would be bombs. Barron said the software has garnered international attention from the Minister of Defense of Holland, who visited the site to see the testing in action.
"He was so pleased, he went straight to Washington [D.C] to order the device," Barron said.
Barron said she believes the testing will continue within the next nine months as updates continue to change.
"It's all about how to get the best information for the Department of Defense and JIEDDO," Barron said.