704th Test Group successfully executed the second Directed Energy Experiment

  • Published
  • By John Cao
  • 704th Test Group Directed Energy CTF

The successful execution of the Air Force’s second Directed Energy, or DE, Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in October 2019, paved the way for further understanding of how DE weapons can support the airbase air defense mission against unmanned aerial systems, or UASs. The 704th Test Group Directed Energy Combined Test Force, or DE CTF, and its partners are making plans for future experiments in support of the DE Experimentation Campaign.

The 704th Test Group is an operating unit of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, or AEDC, headquartered at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.

The Air Force Directed Energy Weapon, or DEW, Flight Plan, signed by the Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017, charts the strategic path to operationalize DEWs. This flight plan directs, in part, the execution of a DE experimentation campaign to better understand the DE concept of operations and doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy required to accomplish the mission.

The Campaign is headed by the Strategic, Development, Planning, and Experimentation, or SDPE, office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The 704th Test Group DE CTF at Kirtland Air Force Base is tasked to execute the DE experimentation campaign.

The second DE experiment, known as Experiment 1b, was a follow-on to an earlier experiment executed at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in late 2018.

Experiment 1b was executed in conjunction with the Army’s annual Maneuver and Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX), which offered operationally realistic radars, sensors and command and control for the experiment. Five DE weapons were integrated into the MFIX command and control system to enable the full capability to detect, track, identify and engage very small UASs at several kilometers away. In order to enhance the realism of the experiment, Air Force Airmen operated the DE weapons using relevant tactics, techniques and procedures.

Over the course of eight days, more than 160 UAS flights were flown in a variety airbase attack scenarios. Results clearly showed that DE weapons can positively contribute to the airbase air defense mission. These DE weapons can defeat UASs with lethal energy at the speed with light and with very low cost per shot.

The successful execution of Experiment 1b truly emphasizes AEDC’s commitment to support the demands of the National Defense Strategy to return to the “great power competition”. AEDC must execute with excellence with our partners and alliances.

Under the DE CTF construct, the Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate and the Air Forces Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB jointly planned and executed Experiment 1b along the 704th. The experiment’s complex planning and execution could only be accomplished by all three DE CTF partners, combining the developmental testing, operational testing and DE systems expertise to get the job done.

Working hand-in-hand, the DE CTF is planning for their next DE experiments: a one-year field assessment of DE weapons at overseas locations and an airbase air defense mission against cruise missiles.

Stay tuned for future updates!