November 30, 2007 (by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez) - The 418th Flight Test Squadron and 772nd Test Squadron recently began testing the ALR-56M radar warning receiver in the C-130J Hercules at the Benefield Anechoic Facility.
USAF ANG C-130J #98-1358, borrowed from the 135th AS, is positioned in the chamber of the Benefield Anechoic Facility here November 8, 2000. The facility will be used throughout November for testing of a new radar warning receiver installed in the aircraft. [USAF photo by Jet Fabara]
The purpose of the tests is to ensure deficiencies identified in earlier tests have been corrected in the ALR-56M and to further integrate the receiver with the other onboard emitters, said Lt. Colonel David Coppler, 772nd TS commander.
"The ALR-56M is the newest version in the radar warning receiver series," Colonel Coppler said. "It detects radio frequency energy hitting the aircraft, which could be from any type of radar. Most importantly, it allows the aircrew to know if they are being targeted by a surface-to-air missile or air-to-air missile. This provides situational awareness to take action against an oncoming missile."
Radar warning receivers are on most Air Force aircraft, he said. Specifically, the ALR-56M is equipped on the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 40 and 50 aircraft.
Colonel Coppler said the receiver is important to the warfighter because aircrew need to know when they are in danger.
"A properly integrated receiver will work with the countermeasures dispensing system to automatically dispense chaff and flares according to a pre-programmed automated sequence," he said. "The crew doesn't have to do anything in many cases. So they can continue their mission with the confidence that the system is working properly to defeat enemy radars."
The testers' goal is to ensure the system detects the threats they simulate at the proper ranges and doesn't display a threat outside of lethal range, he said. If the threat is too far out, the aircrew doesn't need to know about it because it's not a true threat to the mission.
One of the problems when testing a radar warning receiver in the open air is the large number of signals in the atmosphere such as other radars, cell phones and many other types of radio frequency emissions, said Col. Joe Nichols, 412th Electronic Warfare Group commander.
"When we bring an aircraft in the BAF, we can isolate it and have an environment that has only the frequencies we want in the chamber," Colonel Nichols said. "We have spent a lot of money over the years to develop simulators that can produce the exact same types of signals that other radar types may produce. We can see if the aircraft senses them correctly and reacts accordingly."
In conjunction with the receiver tests, the 772nd TS is also conducting design of experiments tests, Colonel Coppler said. It will allow the squadron to look at how well they can apply design of experiments methodologies to ground testing and hopefully refine that process to make testing more efficient in the future.
"One of the great things that has happened at Edwards over the past couple of years is the utilization of the BAF has gone up dramatically," Colonel Nichols said. "We had a large workforce here to bring this aircraft in. We have an outstanding group of engineers and technicians that operate this facility. I'm very proud of the work that the 772nd TS and the 418th FLTS has accomplished together here."
Because of safety issues, every aircraft that enters the BAF must have its fuel emptied, Colonel Coppler said. If there is a fire in the BAF, fuel in the aircraft could potentially worsen the situation.
To place the C-130 inside, crews also removed the radar absorbent material covering the floor of the chamber, rolled the aircraft in place and put the materials back down, Colonel Nichols said.
The Benefield Anechoic Facility is the largest anechoic chamber in the world, he said. It allows crews to test all of the sensors on an aircraft in a controlled environment so they can understand the responses as well as the environment.