ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 5, 2012) -- It is no secret that military technology is put through extensive experimentation and testing before it is added to the Warfighter's toolbox. However, the extent to which it is evaluated and the number of people involved may be surprising.

When it comes to aircraft, the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center's Flight Activity at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. is at the forefront of integrating and testing equipment.

The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, Flight Activity, a component of CERDEC's Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, is at the heart of testing systems that go into aircraft such as various infrared counter measures, signals intelligence sensor systems and radar systems as well as handling post-production modifications like fast rope systems, adapted seats and paint jobs.

Even though organizations and teams outside of the CERDEC Flight Activity, CFA, develop the systems, the CFA is behind the scenes to push the capabilities' limits to the edge to ensure quality products can be deployed.

Recently, the CFA conducted experimental testing for U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's armament center, or ARDEC, located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

The CERDEC Flight Activity tested ARDEC's Hostile Fire Indication system mounted on a UH-60 Blackhawk Experimental Test platform. The CERDEC Flight Activity put the HFI through maneuvers testing including steep turns, climbs, stops and approaches; altitude testing ranging from tree top level to 8,500 feet; and night time testing, said Todd Collins, CFA project pilot for HFI testing.

The CFA conducted almost 12 aircraft flight hours while testing HFI and no missions were cancelled, said Collins.

CFA flight testing has occurred throughout the world in a variety of testing environments such as a beach environment, urban environment, mountainous terrain and dense forest environments. Testing can be performed any time of night or day, said Collins.

"The only limitations to testing are the limits imposed by the aircraft," said Collins.

The CFA has 13 pilots, who are both fixed wing and rotary wing qualified, and average over 8,000 hours of flight time each. Of those pilots, nine have combat experience with five of those combat pilots having experience from Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Charles Maraldo, CFA director.

In addition to flight testing, the CFA has multiple hangars and almost 170,000 square feet of working hangar space and provides end-to-end aviation support for emerging Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as C4ISR, technologies, quick reaction capabilities to units and post-production aircraft modifications for program executive offices and project managers. The CFA also has in-house shop space for machining, fabricating parts, finishing and painting.

The CFA provided modifications to Black Hawk helicopters for the Army's Project Manager Utility Helicopters that were used by Mexican Marines in the arrest of members of a drug cartel. The Mexican Marines involved in the operation utilized a rope to rapidly descend from the Black Hawk ensuring the arrest of the alleged members and confiscation of rifles, magazines for fire arms, various calibers of ammunition, a ballistics vest, and military-style uniforms and boots.

The fast-rope system used by the Mexican Marines was a modification to the helicopter that was installed during post-production modifications by the CFA, said Maraldo.

The CFA also partners with other Department of Defense agencies, members of industry and academia.

"As long as there is a valid DOD purpose and mission, we can work with and support anyone with our extensive array of aircraft and in-house expertise," said Maraldo.