MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The Air Force Joint Test and Evaluation Group from Kirtland Air Force Base Albuquerque, N.M., is aboard the air station conducting Joint Low Altitude Aircraft Survivability Quick Reaction Test's on aircraft used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The JLAAS QRT is a one-year joint test that employs armed forces and other Department of Defense personnel and equipment to produce recommended tactics, techniques and procedures to identify problems and reduce casualty rates in the Iraqi theater of operations.
The new testing comes after 12 helicopters have been downed by infrared man-portable air defense systems, other wise known as a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. Three large aircraft have also sustained major damage because of ongoing resistance by insurgents. These incidents have involved both fixed and rotary wing aircraft operating in low-altitude, low-speed environments.
The Air Force group will be testing C-130 cargo and transport planes, UH-60L "Blackhawk" helicopters, and AH-1W "Super Cobra" helicopters, which are the aircraft most frequently used in air operations in the Middle East. CH-53E and CH-46E helicopters from Marine Helicopter Squadron-1 are also included in the testing.
"The (survivability test) is focused on defensive measures that aircrews employ to increase the survivability while executing arrivals and departures at airfields in a hostile man-portable air defense systems environment," said Air Force Col. Miroslav Jencik, director, Air Force Joint Test and Evaluation Group.
The testing is extra valuable to help deter the vulnerability and susceptibility to aircrew operations in Iraq, said Maj. Clark Pollard, native of Brookfield, Ill., pilot, HMX-1.
Insurgents use man-portable air defense systems as an offensive weapon to ambush aircraft during takeoffs and landings, as well as helicopters conducting medical evacuations of soldiers wounded in ground convoy ambushes.
The Air Force group uses a specific method to gather data that will be used to improve safety.
"The (Air Force group) uses an SA-16 Portable Air Defense Simulator, which is an instrument system equivalent to a (man-portable air defense system) without a missile and includes an authentic seeker and grip stock," said Air Force Master Sgt. James L. Williams, AFJTEG information management noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "That allows a user to simulate an engagement up to and including the trigger squeeze. The system's instrumentation provides users a (Video Home System) cassette or 8mm tape recording of what the gunner saw and heard, including what the seeker was looking at.
"All data collectors are trained by the data manager at the field test site prior to the start of the field test," added Williams. "Data collectors are familiarized with their duties. Operators also are trained at the field test site before the field test by the data manager to ensure they are aware of the requirement to verbalize the following events to the data collector."
The operators go through a six-step process to ensure they collect valuable information audio detection of aircraft, visual detection of aircraft, preparing the missile to fire, missile lock-on, simulated missile launch (trigger pull) and loss of visual contact with aircraft.
Even though AFJTEG originally was not going to visit Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, the station's support has proved beneficial.
"Originally we were going to conduct our training at the Yuma Proving Grounds but then we met with the (Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1) commanding officer and (he) recommended we come to the air station," said Williams. "And so far everything has been working out great. We are ahead of schedule with the amount of test trials that we wanted to do."
AFJTEG arrived on station April 25 and will return to Kirtland May 15 to analyze the data gathered here.