Jordan a customer for YPG surveillance testing
Yuma Proving Ground tests weapon systems and munitions for a wide variety of customers, most of whom hail from the United States.
A growing number of tests, however, are conducted for customers from friendly foreign nations. Recent years have seen tests taking place for Great Britain, Canada, India and Saudi Arabia, among others.
One test customer that has been a focus of testing within the Air Combat Test Directorate for many years is the nation of Jordan. Situated in the Middle East, Jordan is a relatively small country, about one-third the size of Arizona, bordered by four nations: Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
Independent since 1946, over 90 percent of its population is Muslim, though all Jordanians are afforded freedom of religion. Jordan enjoys close relations with the United States.
A number of private firms visited the proving ground in 2007 to demonstrate border surveillance and detection technologies proposed for use along the nation of Jordan's 1700 kilometer border. Officials from Jordan viewed the wares from each vendor and made the selection of DRS Technologies as prime contractor for the first 50 kilometer proof of concept.
Since that time, a great deal of YPG testing has taken place and a “virtual fence” consisting of an assortment of towers, radars and sophisticated electronic sensors to detect vehicles and people has been constructed and put into use. Tommy Gwynn, chief of the sensor test branch, says branch personnel have supported sensor detection technologies for decades, most often aboard aircraft.
YPG's involvement in the border security program with Jordan began roughly five years ago with the 2007 technology demonstration at YPG and has been ongoing ever since, with a wide variety of system and requirement verification testing both within the United States and overseas. The first 50-kilometer section of the virtual fence went into use in late 2009 and is operated by Jordanian military personnel.
“Many of the individual systems that make up the larger project are commercial, off-the-shelf products,” said Gwynn, “to save time and reduce costs. Our role has been to be the independent tester to ensure that the Jordanian government receives the best possible equipment to secure their kingdom.” Members of the team have made numerous visits to Jordan since 2008.
Gwynn's team most recently visited Jordan in September to perform a system characterization test for the purpose of providing a baseline understanding of system performance. The goal was to provide operators a technical “feel” for the capabilities of the system to guide future development.
Bert Evans, team leader in the branch, has been part of this program for two years and has visited Jordan on four occasions. He has spent long hours on the range during each visit, working side-by-side with Jordanian soldiers.
“The Jordanian people are friendly and welcoming. When each test is over, I feel I've gained a new friend, not just a work companion.”
Evans explains the YPG testing role as an unbiased, objective fact-finder. “We aren't looking out for the best interests of a private company or the system itself, but the soldier. We want him or her to have the best systems in the field.”
One challenge to mission success has been the language barrier, as the national language of Jordan is Arabic. Evans says, however, that many Jordanians maintain a large understanding of English.
“We depend on them to be bilingual and respect their ambition to learn and speak multiple languages. Some even carry books to help translate our words into Arabic.” Evans has learned some basic Arabic words to help in communication and to show respect to the people with whom he comes in contact.
One of YPG's hallmarks in the aviation test arena is highly developed expertise in the testing of sensors. According to test officer Ross Gwynn, a challenge they faced was transferring their sensor knowledge from fast moving aerial sensor platforms to stationary ground sensors.