United States Air Force at White Sands Missile Range

USAF 46th Detachment The 46th Test Group is composed of the following organizations: Detachment 1, 746th Test Squadron, 846th Test Squadron, National RCS Test Facility, and 586th Flight test Squadron.  The 46th Test Group is under the 46th Test Wing, Air Armament Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

46th Test Group Detachment 1 serves as the Air Force's liaison with WSMR, interfacing with the U.S. Army and Test Center organizations.  In addition, the unit provides test sponsorship for all Air Force programs testing on WSMR, assisting test program customers in preparing the documentation necessary to execute tests as well as obtaining logistic and test support resources.  Detachment 1 also schedules airspace for all Air Force tests and Air Force tactical training on WSMR.

The 746th Test Squadron (TS), also known as the Central Inertial Guidance Test Facility (CIGTF), is the DOD's designated Responsible Test Organization (RTO) chartered to test and evaluate GPS user equipment (UE) and integrated GPS based guidance and navigation systems.  With over 36 years of experience, CIGTF has established itself as a leader in Inertial, GPS, and blended GPS/Inertial components and system testing.  By coupling our years of experience and expertise with state-of-the-art test and evaluation tools, CIGTF is ready to take on any test challenge.  In addition, CIGTF's inclusive ground, field, and flight-testing capabilities offer the customer a cost-effective means to evaluate their guidance and navigation systems.  In support of GPS testing, the 746th TS also manages the tri-service GPS Test Center of Expertise (COE) comprised of Army, Navy, and Air Force test agencies chartered to support GPS test and evaluation initiatives.  The 746th TS is located at Holloman AFB and is adjacent to WSMR in southern New Mexico.

Logo: Patch of the 746th Test Squadron

Following is a description of some of the 746th Test Squadron capabilities.

  1. Field Testing.  CIGTF's low dynamic mobile land navigation test labs offer an effective means for low cost performance and susceptibility test and evaluation.  Each mobile lab is fully instrumented with the latest in test support equipment.

  2. GPS Electronic Combat (EC) Testing.  CIGTF has also developed numerous tools and processes that have established us as the leader in GPS EC threat environment testing.  For example, the Portable Field Jamming System (PFJS), is one of many mobile test assets CIGTF uses for EC testing.  With proper planning, GPS threat lay-downs, signal structures, and power levels can be generated to represent a realistic EC environment.  Using Navigation Test and Evaluation Laboratory (NAVTEL)'s modeling and simulation development processes to create representative test scenarios allows us to effectively produce customer defined threats prior to field and flight-testing.  By using NAVTEL in this process, significant savings are realized by the customer.

  3. Sled Testing.  The 10-mile long Holloman Air Force Base High Speed Test Track (operated by 846th Test Squadron) offers precise effective low, medium, and high dynamic operating environment for testing, evaluating, and validating GPS based guidance and control systems, inertial navigation systems, and truth reference systems.

    Sled Accuracy:

    • Distance: 0.003 ft
    • Velocity: 0.0013 ft/sec
    • Azimuth: <0.5 arcsec

  4. Flight Testing.  Following functional and performance verification in CIGTF's laboratory and field test environments, flight testing of the item is conducted at WSMR.  CIGTF's fully instrumented aircraft, including the F-16, AT-38, C-12, and UH-1 are used to provide various low, medium, and high dynamic operating environments for the system under test.  Each platform is capable of hosting virtually any combination of INS, GPS, and/or integrated GPS/INS navigation and guidance systems and each platform is fully instrumented for data acquisition.

  5. Reference Systems.  CIGTF provides a wide variety of TSPI Truth Reference Systems for field and flight-testing.  In addition to our high dynamic sled testing, CIGTF reference systems also include CHAPS.  The CIGTF High Accuracy Post-Processing System (CHAPS) provides a high accuracy validated truth reference source that can be used in either a clear or hostile EC environment.

  6. Test Support Network.  In support of the Congressional mandate to integrate GPS UE technology into all DOD weapon systems, CIGTF has developed a wide area differential GPS truth reference system called the "Test Support Network" (TSN).  The TSN provides a superior, cost-effective, truth reference source for platform integrators to use to test and evaluate GPS based guidance and navigation systems.

  7. Laboratory Testing.  The Inertial Laboratory at CIGTF offers a unique, seismically stable environment used to test precision inertial components and systems used for navigation, guidance, and control, and tracking.  The Inertial Laboratory features: a three-axis tables with integrated environmental chambers mounted on isolation pads, and Contraves rate and position tables.

  8. GPS Receiver and Integrated System Testing.  The CIGTF NAVTEL is a state-of-the-art facility used for testing stand-alone GPS UE and integrated GPS navigation systems.  NAVTEL enables GPS UE hardware and software to be fully exercised under laboratory conditions by using realtime simulation of GPS satellite signals in conjunction with simulated and/or hardware-in-the-loop host vehicle aiding and communication systems.  The ability of NAVTEL to fully exercise and simulate realistic operational conditions, including operations in a threat environment, results in a cost effective approach to testing prior to field and flight testing.

  9. Environmental Testing.  The Environmental Laboratory at CIGTF provides the capability to simulate actual operational profiles in low, medium, and high dynamic environments.  A full spectrum of temperature, altitude, humidity, and vibration environments can be effectively created to ensure the system under test is fully exercised in a realistic hostile environment.

846th Test Squadron/TGTD, Holloman High Speed Test Track

The Holloman High Speed Test Track is a rocket test and aerospace test facility which provides an efficient and safe means of testing customer test items while minimizing risks and reducing cost for a wide variety of test hardware in a near operational environment.  Specific advantages are: the test items are recovered for post-run analysis; the sled provides sustained linear and dynamic acceleration and velocity with superimposed, tailored vibration; and the sled track provides extremely accurate test article positioning and time correlation.  Repeated tests of the same test item provide an independent evaluation of modifications made during a development program.

High Speed Test Track

  • Hypersonic Environmental Testing - Structural materials and ablative or refractory coatings are tested to evaluate aerothermal effects in a hypersonic environment.  Test articles and samples included heatshields, radome covers, missile and interceptor nose cones, and shrouds.  Test samples can be recovered after a sled test for post-test analysis and evaluation.
  • Dispenser Systems Testing - This category of testing encompasses the dispensing or launching of rocket-powered weapons, the dissemination of bomblets, flechettes, submunitions, and the dissemination of power-like substances from payload carriers mounted on a test sled in a dynamic environment.  The dispensing of radome covers or shrouds protecting seekers or electro-optical windows have also been demonstrated at supersonic and hypersonic test speeds.

National Radar Cross Section Test Facility

781st Test Squadron Patch & NRTS Logo

The National Radar Cross Section (RCS) Test Facility (NRTF) is the premier DoD facility for RCS testing.  Formerly known as RATSCAT, which began measuring radar scattering in 1963, it is comprised of two complementary sites, Mainsite and RATSCAT Advanced Measurement System (RAMS).  Assigned to the U.S. Air Force's 781st Test Squadron, NRTF is located west of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico in a rolling gypsum region of WSMR.  NRTF specializes in the RCS characterization of full-scale, aerodynamic vehicles and antenna radiation pattern development.  Due to its remote, secure environment, it can also accommodate customers requiring specialized testing of developmental electronics systems.  NRTF products directly support weapon system development programs, vulnerability assessment studies, and mission planning efforts throughout the DoD.

Mainsite has a ground plane RCS range with monostatic and bistatic capabilities to support a variety of targets ranging from small targets to full-scale operational targets.  Both fixed and portable equipment can be set up in a wide variety of configurations for special tests.  Portable equipment can be set up in a wide variety of configurations for special tests.  Test targets at Mainsite can be mounted on polystyrene foam columns of various height on rotating tables.  The rotating tables accept a wide variety of targets ranging from small missiles and reentry vehicles to full-size aircraft and ground vehicles weighing up to 60,000 pounds.  Measurements at Mainsite can be made at any frequency from 120 MHz to 18 GHz and at frequencies of 34 to 36 GHz and 94 GHz.  Both monostatic and bistatic RCS, as well as antenna patterns, can be measured, and special measurements such as near-field, JEM, glint, and Doppler are available upon request.  Additionally, a tailored data package, full test reports, including analysis and interpretation of data, and special data processing are provided to range users according to their requirements.  In addition to these capabilities, Mainsite has the resources to accomplish the design and construction of model targets.

Modeling standards are based on customer requirements, radar scattering principles, and fabrication techniques.  Linear model dimensions of ± 0.2 percent are routinely achieved with angle accuracy of 0.05 degrees.  Model Shop personnel have built models up to 58 feet in length and can perform extensive detailing to provide items such as inlet and exhaust ducts, rotating turbine and compressor blades, and moveable control surfaces.  The primary support structures used at Mainsite are foam columns, constructed of beaded polystyrene.  The density of the material used is dependent upon the weight of the target to be supported, with the shape designed to minimize the return signature.  These columns are then attached to the appropriate sized turntable.  Cranes, manlifts, forklifts and other heavy equipment are available on site for mounting of large and small targets.  Typically, small, lightweight targets can be mounted to an accuracy of ±0.2 degrees in roll and pitch.  Large, heavy targets can be mounted with an accuracy of ±0.5 to 1.0 degree in roll and pitch.


RAMS is a self-contained, secure test complex consisting of the Target Support facility, an 8900 foot paved shadow plane range, the Central Facility, and an office complex, situated at the base of the San Andres mountains 35 miles northwest of the NRTF Mainsite.

The Target Support Facility boasts machine shops, a large target preparation and storage hangar.  Monostatic RCS measurements of targets up to 70 feet in length can be made.  Additionally, with the appropriate target rotator provided, the pylon can support target weights up to 30,000 pounds.  This 95 foot target support pylon can be extended to 56 feet above the projected ground plane and retracted into a silo for visual security and for convenient target mounting and dismounting.  In the secure, controlled access environment of the Target Support Facility, target mounting and preparation are facilitated by use of an overhead traveling bridge crane.  A 105-foot pop-up calibration and field probe pylon is housed in an underground pit in front of the target support pylon on the extreme south end of the paved range.  The Central Facility serves as the center of operations at RAMS.  Within its 6000 sq. ft concrete block structure resides the radar equipment, the Command and Control Systems (CCS), personnel office space, and break rooms.  All manner of classified material can be accommodated and the entire facility is equipped with 24-hour manned security presence.

586th Flight Test Squadron

586th Test Squadron Patch The 586th Flight Test Squadron (586 FLTS) performs flight tests of the most advanced aircraft systems in the world.  The squadron has aircraft parking and administration facilities to provide a high level of security to its customers.  It owns and operates two highly modified AT-38B aircraft equipped to support a wide variety of flight test operations.  Capabilities of the squadron's AT-38Bs include: chaff, flares, GPS navigation and precision data recording and telemetry, ECM, Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pods, and multiple format photographic coverage (including helmet-mounted video cameras).  The squadron owns and operates a highly modified C-12J (Beech 1900 Airliner) with multiple antenna and pod configurations for guidance/navigation, avionics, and electronics testing.  The 586 FLTS has access to both full-scale and sub-scale unmanned aerial targets as well as one of the world's most elaborate ground impact ranges.  The 586th Flight Test Squadron is the world's leading authority on overland firings of the Air Force's primary medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM).