With the clock ticking down to the first Minuteman III test flight to feature a miniature analog translator (MAT)—developed and built by APL to replace the obsolete full signal translator (FST) used for real-time range tracking and GPS signal data on prior test flights—qualification tests identified a need to change a configuration file in the MAT ground equipment. Short on time, and with no FSTs available to replace the new technology for the test flight, APL integrated the MAT into an existing hardware-in-the-loop simulation suite and added the missing processing components to create a full end-to-end simulation for various flight conditions. The Air Force then used this data to show with high confidence that the system would perform within specs, and the GT-219 missile flew successfully—and on time.
We improved on training aids by rapidly and cost-effectively prototyping an interactive pressurization valve for missile tube launcher training. The actual valve is expensive, pneumatically actuated, cast iron and stainless steel; ours was modeled with computer-aided-design tools and 3-D printed in plastic. We then equipped it with motors and sensors and linked the valve to an existing computer simulation of the launch system. This device demonstrated APL’s ability to provide effective, low-cost alternatives to traditional trainer mock-ups.
Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent
APL has a significant evaluation role in the Air Force program to replace the aging Minuteman III system. Building on our deep experience as an independent evaluator of the Trident II system, we provided critical information that will help program leads determine the feasibility of the ground-based strategic deterrent’s ambitious accuracy threshold with currently available technology. Our research showed that an effective combination of models and flight-test instrumentation would help the Air Force meet U.S. Strategic Command accuracy evaluation goals in just 11 tests—a significant savings over the 30 tests needed with a traditional approach—and we provided similar advice concerning instrument and test requirements to meet Strategic Command’s reliability evaluation goals.
Wave Glider Demonstration
For the first time, we used the commercially developed Wave Glider to demonstrate how quickly the Navy can field new sensor systems. A significant operational challenge was to hold Wave Glider’s position in the Gulf Stream, where currents can exceed five knots and potentially override the glider’s top speed of about two knots. In a set of successful tests, Wave Glider spent more than six hours in a planned area—a milestone in proving the glider can perform missions that include communication, submarine position localization, and data collection in a broad range of ocean environments.