WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., July 8, 2010 - White Sand Missile Range has a new testing and training area that will be used as a battalion level test for potential Army systems later this summer.

Yucca Village is a new testing area that will be used during this year's Limited User Test for a set of systems the Army is considering. The Program Executive Office Integration will be bringing a battalion sized unit of Soldiers to WSMR for this year's LUT, where they will be conducting test operations that simulate infantry battalion operations in a modern theater of war like that found in Iraq or Afghanistan. Unlike the LUT of the previous year that featured only platoon level operations in a small area, this test requires not only a larger number of troops but also expands their area of operations. The previous LUT was conducted at Adobe Village, just south of WSMR's cantonment area, with Soldiers rarely operating more than a few miles from the forward operating base acting as their command and control center. By comparison, this year's LUT will involve several different test complexes over 20 miles apart. "(Yucca Village) could be a two platoon sized objective, but in the whole scheme it will be part of a larger operating area," said Maj. Sandra Sizemore, assistant product manager for increment I capabilities integration with PEO-I.

Yucca Village is located on the far eastern edge of the range, near Oro Grande Range Camp and PEO-I's primary facility on WSMR. Designed to resemble a small undeveloped town, Yucca Village features seven cinderblock buildings, several of which have roof access or multiple stories. Filling out the town are over a dozen smaller wood structures, walls, barricades and even a small tunnel system that connects several of the cinderblock structures together. Yucca village will be used as an objective and area of operation during the LUT, replacing Adobe Village's role in the test.

The decision to construct Yucca Village was made to meet the expanded test requirements and to help keep the test's schedule on track. "Adobe Village was on Fort Bliss property, so there were scheduling issues, and Adobe wasn't big enough for Platoon level operations," Sizemore said. One of the primary goals of the LUT will be to evaluate the production model of the Network Integration Kit, a wireless communications system that will allow Soldiers to form a computer network they can use to share data and control unmanned systems remotely. "The Infantry brigade combat team doesn't have a digital terrestrial network, so what we're offering them is wide pipe (to move large amounts of data through)," said Col. John Wendell, the IBCT project manager. The production model of this network will have previously unavailable features, such as an anti-jamming mode that is expected to allow the network to stand up to electronic warfare scenarios.

Yucca Village's features will also allow for more rigorous testing of the NIKs and their related unmanned systems. The increased number of buildings at the site will limit lines of sight, so the radio equipment in the NIK will have to work harder to form a stable network over the distances required by the program.

The small tunnel system underneath the site will also test the networks ability to connect to unmanned systems intended to function in urban and underground environments like the urban unattended ground sensors, and the small unmanned ground vehicle.

"In the Afghan theater you've got a lot of tunnels and caves, and so that would be part of the reconnaissance you would do; looking for people hiding and weapons caches," Sizemore said, adding that in more developed theaters this could also represent sewers and storm drains.

The LUT is scheduled to begin later this summer and will use Yucca Village as well as other sites on WSMR. Sites expected to be included are another urban site still under construction, as well as the former range control building. Test officers are also looking at the use of portions of the old 500k test facility and some old mines located on the range.