Alamogordo Daily News

Alamogordo Daily News (NM)

November 3, 2007
Section: Features
Article ID: 7365676


New facility to focus on electromagnetic vulnerability

  ARL hosted VIPs and the media to an open house to celebrate the completion of the EMVAF facility. Here, visitors stand at one of the doors into the main EMVAF chamber.  
  Photo: Visitors are shown one of the doors to the main test chamber in the Electromagnetic Vulnerability Assessment Facility. The main chamber, which is over 100 feet long, can be used for experiments with everything from computer networks to tanks and small aircraft.  

A new research and analysis facility which will provide the Army Research Laboratory and the installation with state of the art electromagnetic spectrum research capability opened on White Sands Missile Range Oct. 24 following a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Electromagnetic Vulnerability Assessment Facility is a multifunction facility that will enable researchers to conduct a wide range of experiments involving radio and wireless emissions and communications. "It's a center to protect our people from threats, from what the enemy has," said Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson Jr., commanding general of the Army Research Lab, Development and Engineering Command.

A new facility had to be constructed following the loss of the previous EMVAF in a fire in 2001. With the support of local leadership, including the efforts of New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, White Sands received the funds to construct a new and improved EMVAF to support the Army's mission to evaluate Army weapons systems' survivability against the full spectrum of electromagnetic energy threats.

The major components of the EMVAF are the two double-shielded energy absorbing chambers. Within these chambers experiments are conducted to determine system vulnerabilities. Additionally, since the chambers block all radio and wireless signals, new information warfare techniques with wireless systems can be tested without fear of affecting civilian networks and the Internet. "It's a general purpose experimental tool and gives us a lot of freedom in the (radio frequency) realm," said Dan Williams, an electronics engineer with Army Research Laboratory. Taking up a large portion of the facility is the larger of the two test chambers. At more than 100 feet long, the chamber can accommodate a wide range of devices and vehicles for analysis. Equipped with a fume exhaust system, the chamber can even run experiments on armored vehicles while the vehicle engine is running. A hoist system is built into the chamber's ceiling to accommodate experiments that involve small aircraft or airborne systems that would be active in flight.

The EMVAF will begin experimentation in the coming months when it starts evaluating new information systems and other systems for use in the war on terror. "In addition to (Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate's) traditional electronic warfare work, we expect the EMVAF to be key to our support for, among other things, the (Command and Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Sensors, and Reconnaissance On-the-move) experiment, the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program, the wireless mobile ad-hoc network connection for the Future Combat Systems, and wireless local area networks," said Dr. Paul Tanenbaum, director of the Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate. The new facility includes a number of safety upgrades and maintenance enhancements that the previous EMVAF lacked. The new facility is built using fire retardant materials, and is equipped with a dry pipe sprinkler system that can be activated without a fear of harming anyone in the building. Even the lighting was designed with safety in mind. Lighting in the large test chamber can be accessed from an attic, so employees no longer need to interrupt experiments and climb tall ladders just to replace light bulbs. "It's a far safer environment and it is a lot more convenient," Williams said. The new facility's location on White Sands will save time and money since experiments can be run on the range instead of requiring transport to another facility.

The ribbon cutting ceremony concluded with a demonstration of the Range Control Branch's Army Air Flare copter. According to Dave Chelgren, operations officer for Army Air, the Flare copter is a UH-1 Huey helicopter equipped with the Army Research Lab's countermeasure dispensing system. The system is capable of launching up to 480 flares in support of various test and experimentation missions.

Copyright (c) 2007 Alamogordo Daily News (NM), a MediaNews Group Newspaper.