Targets and Instrumentation

Due to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)'s large size and variety of the missions, WSMR has a vast array of different targets and instrumentation our customers can utilize.  WSMR continually strives to maintain and modernize current technologies and design, develop and acquire future technologies that improve the quality of test data acquisition, transmission, processing, display, and storage.

Our Targets and Instrumentation include:

Aerial Cable

The Aerial Cable Range (ACR) main features are its 2.5 inch Kevlar Cable with 5000,000 lbs breaking strength, 15,500 ft horizontal span and 2,500 ft vertical drop, operating tensions from less than 20,000 to 150,000 lbs, and 20,000 lb lift capability.

The facility provides a wide variety of testing which includes:

  • Missile firings, Red and Blue types of Surface to Air (SAM) and Air to Air (ATA)
  • Signature measurements (IR, UV, and Radar)
  • Submunition Drops
  • Antenna Development
  • Ground fire characterization
  • Aircraft characterization
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Countermeasure tests

The ACR target can be stationary or dynamic.  Dynamic target gravity rolls up to 120 knots and rocket boosted rolls up to 240 knots can be attained.  ACR can position targets anywhere along the cable and have targets rotated in 5 degree increments for different aspects.  Depending on the target weight and size, targets can be lifted from ground level to a maximum of 1000 feet above ground level (AGL).  On board video links, timing, GPA, remote control via Labview, modems, and wireless LANS can be accommodated.

The ACR is capable of high repeatability of test scenarios, target velocity, position and control.  Multiple launches are possible, as well as, dual firings with any desired time separation.


The Global Positioning System (GPS) and Timing Branch at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) operates GPS sensor equipment that collects Time Space Position Information (TSPI) for various Test platforms, both ground and airborne.  The Branch is also responsible for operating and maintaining the Range Timing equipment that is GPS timing based.

The GPS sensors that are utilized include:

  • Advanced Range Data System (ARDS)
  • ARDS Lite
  • Differential Corrections Broadcast
  • L1/L2 Reference Receiver Data Collection

The ARDS System was developed by the Tri-Service Range Applications Joint Program Office (RAJPO) during the 1980's and early 1990's.  The ARDS is a Multi-player/Mobile system which uses remote GPS relay sites to extend the range coverage of the systems under test.  The ARDS system architecture consists of three unique segments: The Datalink Ground System (DLGS) Control Segment, the Master/Remote Ground Station (MRGS) datalink relay Segment, and the Participant Instrumentation Segment.

The ARDS Participant Instrumentation comes in two configurations, the AIM-9 Pod Configuration (AN/ARQ-52 (V) GPS Pod) and the Plate Configuration.  The ARDS pods are primarily designed for aircraft instrumentation, mounted below the wings where the aircraft arsenal is normally carried.  The AIM-9 Pod Configuration accommodates mounting on "fast movers" (F-14s, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, GR1 Tornados, AV8Bs) and drone targets like QF-4s and F-4s.  The Pod configuration also accommodates military helicopters (AH-1 Cobras and AH-64 Apaches).  Plate Configurations support ground vehicles (tanks, humvees, ect.), helicopters, T-38's and are adaptable for other customized uses.

The main subsystems within the ARDS pods and plates are the on-board inertial measurement unit (IMU), a 10-channel (P/Y)-code compatible GPS receiver, a Datalink Transceiver (DLT) L-Band radio, a flash card recorder, an advanced Digital Interface Unit (ADIU) computer, and various power conditioning modules.  Down linking of host vehicle 1553-type data is also possible using the optional Range Encryption Module (REM).  The ARDS pods can be used in Real Time Casualty Assessment (RTCA) scenarios due to the fact that they can sense and record trigger pulls plus downlink weapon systems information from the host vehicle 1533 data bus.

Participant to Participant relaying capabilities allow the system to downlink or relay target information from those targets not within line-of-sight of a datalink relay station, thus enabling an extension of datalink coverage beyond that offered by the datalink relay stations alone.  To date a single ARDS Control System has been used successfully to track up to 60 independent Participants as demonstrated during JCIET 2002.

The TSPI downlink and on-board recording data rate of the ARDS is variable at 0.1, 0.5, 1,2,5 and 10 Hz intervals.  System accuracy is plus or minus 3 meters in x, y, and z (dynamic) and less than plus or minus 1 meter (static).  The TSPI provided includes a Participant ID number along with navigation state data consisting of GPS time, position, velocity, acceleration, attitude, and attitude rates.  The TSPI solution is based upon coupled GPS/IMU measurements using either precise encrypted (P/Y)-code or coarse acquisition (C/A)-code.  The data output is in WGS-84, earth centered-earth fixed (ECEF) format.

The GPS Small Box configuration, also known as the ARDS Lite, supports: ground vehicles (tanks, humvees, ect.) and most military helicopters (including HIP and HIND).  The configuration is also an adaptable small package for drone, cruise missiles and drone targets like the MQM-107 and BQM-74.  Like the ARDS, the ARDS lite also provided TSPI utilizing the coarse acquisition (C/A) code of the GPS; with accuracies identical to that of the ARDS.

Ground Targets

Throughout the range, White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) offers a wide variety of targets for all types of weapons testing.  Our desert environment closely represents a number of theater target environments including mountainous terrain inhabited with caves, concrete bunkers, fixed and remote-control tanks, trucks and other specialized vehicles.


The Optical Instrumentation Suite consists of a variety of optical tracking systems and facilities throughout White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).  The equipment and facilities are ultimately responsible for producing Time Space Position Information (TSPI), visual information and Radiometric analysis on a wide variety of aerial and ground targets.  The Optics Branch consists of both Government and Contractor support elements.  The Government contingent operates Kineto Tracking Mounts (KTM) as well as three Remote Instrument Control Systems (RICS) and the Optics Remote Control Acquisition (ORCA); both are used to control the KTMs remotely.  The Contractor personnel operate a group of KTMs and an additional ORCA system.  The Contractor is also responsible for the operation of the non-track camera systems used primarily at launcher and impact sites, KTM depot-level maintenance, and the visual information and media transfer facilities.

The KTM systems are equipped with long focal length lenses, analog video cameras, high-speed digital cameras, infrared video systems, and digital recording systems.  These systems are usually remotely operated at a hazard-safe distance from either and ORCA or RICS control van.  Due to the size of WSMR and the number of missions executed, it is necessary to move the KTMs and their associated control systems around the range almost daily.  There are three different configurations of the KTMs used at WSMR, each with a different number of sensor platforms and capabilities, the Multi-mode Automatic Tracking System (MAT), Launch Area Theodolite (LAT) and the Triple platform mount (TPM).

The non-track or fixed cameras are used even more than the tracking systems.  The non-track cameras are typically set up around the launcher and impact sites.  The inventory of equipment includes high-speed digital, analog video and streak cameras as well as video streamers and recording devices.  The cameras can be used to collect simple "event" type pictures or data that can be used to produce TSPI solutions.

Recent modernization efforts for optics include the elimination of film and the digital conversion of optical systems to interface with the WSMR network.  Use of film has been eliminated and replaced with digital cameras.  The effort is on-going to convert the KTMs and control systems to digital, making it possible to link them via a WSMR-wide network.  Once completed this will increase the operational capabilities and make the setups more flexible because they will not be restricted to line-of-site connections.


The Radar Branch operates twelve tracking radars throughout the Range.  Two phased array AN/MPS-39 Multiple Object Tracking Radars and ten AN/FPS-16 radars form the basic radar instrumentation network.  These are supplanted by a special purpose CW Doppler radar.  A third AN/MPS-39 Multiple Object Tracking Radar has been acquired and it is planned to be operational in 2013.  White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) operates two C-band Radar Transponder shops.  The transponder test facility provides all transponder support on WSMR, both on and off the Range, as to ensure positive, reliable, repeatable target tracking necessary to meet Missile Flight Safety and customer requirements.

AN/MPS-39 MOTR (Army Navy Mobile Pulsed systems Multiple Object Tracking Radars)

The AN/MPS-39 Multiple Object Tracking Radars are WSMR's most modern instrumentation radars.  They are phased array radars, each capable of simultaneously tracking up to 40 objects within a scan volume of 60 degrees by 60 degrees.  Each MOTR phased array antenna is mounted on an azimuth over elevation pedestal so that full hemispheric coverage is possible.  The precision of the radar is 0.2 mils (approximately .02 milliradians) in angles and 1.5 yards in range.  The peak power of the radar is one-megawatt, but a mix of six different waveforms provides for a total average transmitted power of 5000 watts, the highest of any of the WSMR radars.  The MOTR is capable of tracking a six-inch sphere to range in excess of 120 km.

AN/FPS-16 Radars (Army Navy Mobile Pulsed Systems)

WSMR also operates up to ten AN/FPS-16 instrumentation tracking radars.  The FPS-16 is a pulsed radar that operates at C-Band frequencies between 5.4 and 5.9 GHz.  It is capable of tracking a single target as small as a six inch sphere with a precision of better than 3 yards to a distance of almost 100 kilometers.  The radar can track in two modes: Echo, where the radar locks onto the reflected energy from a target, and transponder mode, where an active on-board device is used for the tracking signal.

Continuous Wave (CW) Doppler Radar

The Continuous Wave (CW) Radar is a special purpose radar designed to record the Doppler Signature of a target.  It is used primarily for measuring the exit velocity of ground launched missiles and muzzle velocity of direct fire weapons.


White Sands Missile Range is heavily instrumented with many types of sensors and data gathering equipment.  The Telemetry System is one such type of sensor that collects information pertaining to a test vehicle's direction, health and status.  The manufacturer normally instruments the test vehicle at the factory with numerous sensors and guidance systems.  Data from these systems is then transmitted, where telemetry tracking stations receive the information and relay it to the primary data processing station at the Telemetry Data Center (TDC).

The TDC provides WSMR with one of the premier telemetry processing and display facilities within the Department of Defense.  The data is processed and displayed for use by both external range customers, such as a missile manufacturer, and internal customers according to predetermined parameters.  One such internal customer is Flight Safety which uses telemetry data, such as vehicle trajectory or status, to determine if the test should continue or be terminated.  Such constraints require that the telemetry system perform its duties flawlessly.  The TDC staff includes recognized experts in mathematical analysis, real-time data processing, software development, systems engineering and real-time flight safety decision strategies.  The purpose or mission of this organization is to collect, process, archive and display telemetry data in ether preflight, real-time or postflight mode.

The TDC is in the process of upgrading its current complement of processing and display systems.  These upgrades will enhance mission support and data products for our customers.  Such benefits include: improved processing, display, and data storage and access capability.

The TDC has begun the implementation of a software-based telemetry processing system (versus the traditional hardware based systems) that extracts real-time telemetry data and presents it in real-time via PC-based graphical displays and/or strip chart recorders.  Considering that telemetry data can provide information concerning a vehicle's position, status and health, the TDC uses telemetry data to depict real-time visual information of a vehicle's orientation and/or position using Modeling and Simulation tools.  This visualization provides our customers with an intuitive grasp of the vehicles' spatial situation.

With the new processing systems, TDC is capable of digitizing telemetry data in real-time and has the ability to offer its customers processed digital telemetry data products in a greater variety of large capacity archival media.  The data products of the TDC consists of the following: Serial or Multiplexed Metrum Helical Scan Tapes, Sony 8mm tapes, Compact Disks, Digital Versatile/Video Disks and USB Hard Drives.  In addition, the TDC provides customers with SVHS and VHS tapes, embedded telemetry seeker video displays, 2D/3D computer generated graphical representations of telemetry data and strip chart recordings.

Weapons Impact

There are currently ten impact areas at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) which can be used for air to surface or surface to surface flight test missions.  The impact areas are circular and range in diameter from 4,200ft to 10,000ft.  The impact areas are grouped into three categories: Phase I Impact Areas, Live Payload (Phase II) Impact Areas, and Special Purpose Areas.

Phase I Impact Areas:

There are seven Phase I Impact Areas.  These impact areas are used exclusively to test inert warheads which do not contain a high explosive charge and are used for dispensing of inert submunitions with only live detonators in the fusing system.  The impact areas are free of vegetation to enhance the safety of the impact area.

Live Payload (Phase II) Impact Areas:

There are currently three Live Payload (Phase II) Impact Areas.  These impact areas are designated as Warhead Impact Target (WIT) areas and are used for testing fully tactical high explosive warheads and for dispensing tactical configuration submunitions.  Only visual analysis is allowed in these areas.  Recovery of these submunitions is not allowed and dud submunitions are destroyed in place.

Special Purpose Areas:

A 40 foot drop tower is available in the WSMR "Denver" (Phase II) area.  Extensive test beds located in the WSMR "Rhodes" (Phase II) area are used for explosive hazard classification tests such as static detonation, slow and fast cook-off, sympathetic detonation, and bullet impact tests.  The ABC-1 Impact area is specially designed for testing target engagement capabilities of conventional and smart submunitions.  The ABC-1 complex encompasses a 5,000 foot diameter cleared area, a racetrack, and a tank staging area.

Army Air

Army Air

Army Air CollageThe Army Air flight crews have the experience you need to accomplish your test in a safe and professional manner.  Their specialty is aircraft test support; the majority of the services are provided routinely to WSMR customers in the desert and mountains that encompass WSMR, New Mexico and southwest United States.  Expert maintenance staff is capable of adapting your test equipment to our aircraft.  Structures, avionics, and quality assurance technicians specialize in interfacing project electrical and structural components with aircraft systems.  Special equipment and components can be mounted both internally and externally to meet customer requirements.  Early coordination for aircraft support is encouraged.

Available aircraft: C-12D and UH-60L

Aerial Targets

Aerial Targets An expansive array of targets are available for both threat and target presentation to systems under test.  Unique targets can be supported, by request.  Both manned and unmanned targets are available.  Unmanned targets are suitable for both sensor and live weapon system tests.  Manned targets and operational UAVs are suitable or sensor and other nondestructive tests.

Unmanned target drones

  • Full-scale: QF-4
  • Subscale: MQM-107, BQM-34, BQM-74, BQM-167 and AQM-37


  • MQM-171A Broadsword
  • Operational UAVs for sensor tracking


  • Threat missiles
  • Patriot, Research Rockets, Hera, Juno and Lance

Manned aircraft for sensor tracking

  • 46thTest Group at Holloman AFB: AT-38 and C-12
  • WSMR Army Air: UH-1, UH-72, C-12
  • Contractor provided aircraft

Aerial Cable targets

Towed Targets

Meteorology Instrumentation

A wide variety of mobile sensors, collection platforms and data formats are available for test operations and related activities:

Surface Measurements

  • Precise meteorological sensors
  • Portable towers and platforms for sensor mounting at customer defined heights.  Surface to 34 meters.

Upper Atmospheric Measurements

  • Atmospheric profiles of temperature, relative humidity, density wind speed/direction and various derived data products from surface to about 30 KM (100 k feet)


White Sands Missile Range offers numerous roads for road testing, C-IED, placement of targets, environmental and terrain settings, and sensor testing.

If you have any questions or for more information please contact us at 1-866-532-9767 or