ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Aberdeen Proving Ground technology took a giant leap forward in supporting Warfighters in the War on Terror when it opened two new state-of-the-art test facilities Sept. 8.

Local, state and national dignitaries attended the ribboncutting ceremony for the U.S.
Army Aberdeen Test Center's Automotive Technology Evaluation Facility and then toured
the Rotorcraft Survivability Assessment Facility belonging to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

Speakers included Maj. Gen. Nick G. Justice, commander of APG and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; Col. Orlando W. Ortiz, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander; Col. Jeffrey P. Holt, ATC commander; and John M. Miller, ARL director.

Guests included Dr. John Foulkes, director, Test Resource Management Center, Office of the Secretary of Defense; and Maryland's Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger.

"Facilities don't provide the Army value until you place talented people in them," Justice said. "The Soldiers and Marines you see in attendance represent a larger force that will benefit from what we learn on our test tracks and how we use that information."

"These facilities are a bright example of what we do here at APG," Ortiz added.

The ATEF is an engineered high-speed test track that dramatically improves test capabilities

for ATC. It is a 4.5 miles long, 207-foot wide tri-oval track with wide safety run-off areas and stringent grading criteria designed and constructed to enable tracked, wheeled and robotic vehicles automotive tests.

The first phase of ATEF, a gravel track, is now complete. Phase 2, which begins next year, will add a paved road alongside the gravel track, and a braking and maneuver test area.

Until now, there was no way to test the entire Department of Defense fleet of vehicles and equipment at sustained high speeds. The ATEF provides the DoD with the first contiguous, flat, sustained high-speed test track on which the Army will be able to fully test all current and future vehicles.

Holt said that because the ability to test vehicles at high speeds is essential, the ATEF "enhances the quality of testing at ATC."

"Testing time has increased by as much as fifty percent," he said. "The less test time means more time for other critical testing."

The ARL's RSAF provides new and improved capabilities for conducting ballistic vulnerability/lethality research on modern rotary-wing aircraft. It will add the ability to conduct vulnerability tests for Army aviation and possibly some land systems. The facility is a center-of-excellence for the Army and DoD, providing a range of survivability experimental services to support advanced system development, response to new threats, and live fire testing. RSAF features include an aircraft-positioning tilt table system that is able to support and secure a complete spectrum of operational helicopters in various orientations, allowing for an expanded set of shot-lines from underneath. Ballistic firing capability, operational by the end of 2010, will include small arms, anti-aircraft artillery, high explosive warheads and several non-conventional munitions.

Miller said the RSAF is a testament to the more than 2,000 members of ARL who "every day push state-of-the-art science, technology and engineering."

"This test facility is emblematic of that notion," he said.

Foulkes said it was a great day for DoD and the state of Maryland. He said it was vitally important to complete parts II and III of the ATEF project and commended the men and women of both facilities and the APG test and evaluation community.

"Thank you for your critical efforts on behalf of capital defense," he said.

The ATC is a part of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, which is relocating its headquarters to APG from Virginia due to base realignment and closure.

The ARL is a part of RDECOM.

Roger Teel of RDECOM contributed to this story.