Developmental Test Navfest: A Large Scale, Multi-Aircraft, GPS Jamming Test Event
Cole Johnson, Chiawei Lee, and Marcea Ascencio, US Air Force Test Center, Edwards AFB
Location: Big Sur
Edwards Air Force Base, home of the Air Force Test Center, has a long history of testing aircraft and technologies at the forefront of the aerospace and defense industry. The test unique infrastructure, dedicated airspace, and a deep talent pool of experienced flight testers make it an ideal location to host large scale test events. Developmental Test (DT) Navigation Festival (NAVFEST) was a first of its kind GPS jamming test event held at Edwards AFB, CA in August 2017. Although other GPS jamming test events have occurred around the world, none have been accomplished on such a scale by the developmental test community which provides a disciplined, scripted, and data-rich environment. This paper will cover the necessary planning, safety mitigation, diverse types of test, and the overall jamming ecosystem created by the event.
During the week-long test event, five types of US Air Force platforms including the B-1, B-2, F-16, F-22, and F-35 successfully completed test missions against 14 GPS jammers which created the most intense jamming to signal (J/S) field available. All testing was supported by control rooms staffed with professional test conductors and flight test engineers monitoring data in real-time, allowing for meticulous analysis of the effects of GPS Jamming on military aircraft. In total, eight different instrumented test aircraft flew 13 total test sorties to collect data that is being used to analyze resiliency to jamming, develop future tactics, and guide acquisition decisions. Two university research labs were also afforded the opportunity to flight test experimental small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) for an additional 21 short-duration sorties.
Each platform involved in the test event was interested in testing anti-jam performance in a dynamic environment as well as maintaining downstream radar, targeting pods, data links, sensor fusion, and weapons capabilities which utilize the aircraft’s navigation solution. Some specific tests performed on the sub systems include: simulated weapon releases, synthetic aperture radar mapping, datalink transmit/receive, ground targeting, and multi-ship communication exercises. In addition, participating aircraft were able to test new capabilities only achievable in a GPS jamming environment such as jamming detection and the accompanying warnings displayed to the pilot. The specific test results remain classified but the test methodology are included in this paper. The authors of this paper intend to submit a follow-on presentation and paper containing a subset of the test results to the classified session of the ION Joint Navigation Conference in July 2018.
DT NAVFEST significantly reduced costs by splitting jammer setup and execution fees, on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars, between multiple participating organizations. It also created an eco-system of test and training that allowed smaller organizations to participate in an event that otherwise would have been cost prohibitive to create on their own. These included KC-10 aerial refueling tanker training, Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) training, Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force (ETCTF) testing, and academic research testing conducted by Stanford University and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC).
Through the Air Force Test Center’s Educational Partnership program, an agreement was drafted between the Test Center and the academic research labs. This allowed the labs to take advantage of the jamming field provided by the DT NAVFEST event, dedicated sUAS airspace (including night flying), frequency deconfliction, and support assets from Edwards Air Force Base without cost. This first of its kind partnership falls in line with the Air Force’s overall support of cutting edge academic research and will further mature technologies and algorithms which can support both military and civilian navigation.
Although GPS jamming is not new to the Southwestern US, serious consideration was taken to mitigate the effects on the public and other agencies who rely on GPS. Over a hundred organizations were contacted to determine the scope of impact and mitigate any possible risk. Early coordination with the FAA enabled proper deconfliction with large scale Marine and Navy events while identifying time-windows that minimized impact to commercial air traffic. In addition, the DT NAVFEST team contacted many agencies including but not limited to emergency services, public utilities, cell-phone providers, railroads, and local industries such as mining companies which could be affected. A large effort was expended to ensure the first of what will hopefully become an annual DT NAVFEST was safe and effective. These efforts resulted in a successful and safely executed DT NAVFEST test event. The test community is already in planning for a follow-on DT NAVFEST in late 2018 which will expand on the number of participants and the types of test and training conducted in 2017.
Cole Johnson is a Guidance and Navigation Engineer at the 412th Test Engineering Group, Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Cole led the planning and execution of DT NAVFEST, a first of its kind GPS jamming test event. Currently a project engineer, Cole is managing preparations to test future capabilities of the F 22 Raptor program. He spent the previous five years as one of the first engineers to test the many new capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Cole received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Northern Arizona University (NAU), and his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).
Wei Lee is an Electronic Warfare Engineer at the 412th Electronic Warfare Group, Edwards Air Force Base, CA. He was recently selected for a rotational assignment to the 412th Test Wing Test Safety Office where he is responsible for conducting independent safety review on all projects executing at Edwards AFB. His previous experience includes electronic warfare and weapons testing on F-16, F-22, F-35, B-1, and B-2 platforms. He received his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and his Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University.
Marcea Ascencio is a Guidance and Navigation Engineer at the 412th Test Engineering Group, Edwards Air Force Base, CA. She is currently an engineer testing Communication, Navigation and Identification capabilities on the F-35 Developmental Test Program and is the lead engineer for the next DT NAVFEST event. Her previous experience includes testing navigation and core avionics capabilities for the F-16 USAF and EPAF programs. She received her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from California State University of Long Beach.