ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland (April 22, 2015) — The Director of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. William T. Grisoli, drove full-speed ahead in an Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle at the Automotive Technology Evaluation Facility test track April 22 at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command‘s Aberdeen Test Center.
During a day-long visit, Grisoli saw first-hand the intricacies of ATC’s capabilities as he was briefed on survivability, armor, ammunitions and automotive test capabilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Maj. Gen. Peter D. Utley, ATEC commanding general, hosted the Army leader during the tour where Grisoli got a glimpse into the real-world test capabilities ATC offers in one location.
“ATC’s mission area, is a vital one,” said Utley. “The work done here adds tremendous value to the Army as it enables our Soldiers’ ability to be effective and survive harsh environments, even under fire when deployed down range.”
Described by Utley as the Army’s ‘automotive testing center of excellence,’ ATC conducts testing on various aspects of a vehicle and the equipment used when it’s operated. From its armor, how a vehicle responds to a blast, to how effective the Soldier helmets are when taking incoming fire.
“Our job is to ensure the equipment works, meets the needs of the soldier, and increases the chance for survival when faced with a threat,” said Col. Gordon Graham, ATC commander. “We look at how a system responds in certain explosive events, similar to what the system would encounter when deployed. With that data, the PMs [program managers] have the opportunity to make modifications before a decision is made on the systems’ procurement.”
He went on to explain the complexity and value-added of ATC’s mission and the breadth of one-stop-shop capabilities ATC offers its customers. ATC conducts its mission on 66,000 acres of APG’s 88,000 acre installation, with plenty of space to conduct live- and indirect- fire missions each day.
“On any given day, our test experts orchestrate the firing of about 1,000 rounds on the test range,” said Graham. “Body armor testing is one of our core business areas.”
After a flyover tour over Aberdeen’s grounds, Grisoli spoke with experts from the Survivability/Lethality Directorate, Protective Equipment Division; Armaments and Munitions Division; Small Arms System Division, Hard Armor and Special Projects Branch, Common Instrumentation and Automotive Directorate.
At the Light Armor Range Complex, Grisoli learned more about the activities of personal protective equipment ballistic testing, armor exploitation and armor plate acceptance first-hand during multiple demonstrations during the visit.
Helmets, vests, vehicle armor are all put to the test in a simulated lab environment capable of replicating real-world threat environments.
Louise Spangler, chief, Protective Equipment Division, and Kevin Mintzer, branch chief for Live-Fire, briefed leadership on the how the team answers the question ‘Will this materiel stop a threat?’
ATC uses a building block approach when testing systems against specific threats. Mintzer explained that first, the material alone is tested against a threat; then that material as part of a larger piece of the system is tested. That system is then tested as an integrated piece of equipment, assembled in the same manner it would be outfitted in the field environment, according to Mintzer.
“Testing a system in an integrated environment, whether it be an MRAP, JLTV or Humvee, is vital to uncovering data that needs to be addressed before a system is fielded,” said Mintzer.
Justin Dawson, lead equipment specialists on the small arms field team said ATC is a one-of-a-kind facility, in that it has the ability to start and finish an entire test program, from firing, maintenance, repair and inspections, something unique in the test and evaluation realm.
In addition, Dawson explained further, what sets ATC apart from its like organizations is its capability to test high-explosives, sub-sonic and super-sonic ammunition, and the organic capability to test ammunition components in a variety of test environments.
“Diversity,” said Graham when describing ATC in a word. “We are one of the more diverse test centers. Automotive testing is our core competency, and we execute this mission holistically. We want to know, not just how the vehicle itself works, but understand how all systems on an automotive system work when integrated so we get a real picture of what Soldiers will experience when using the technology in the operational environment.”