The facility, located at the company’s Greenville, Texas aerospace center, is one of the only privately-operated airborne mission system test ranges in the United States. It is staffed by experienced aerospace engineers who provide testing and validation of complex mission systems, including signals, communications and electronic intelligence; radar warning receiver and electronic countermeasures testing; and radar threat simulation from multiple emitters proprietary to L3Harris.
“Our MSTF is unique within our industry. While similar test ranges exist across the U.S., virtually all of those facilities are government-owned, such as Pax River, China Lake, Edwards Air Force Base and Yuma Proving Ground,” said GT Parsons, Sr. Manager, Integration and Test Engineering, L3Harris. “We own and operate all of the MSTF equipment at the facility, which reduces schedule risk, allows us to accelerate our delivery schedules, and brings a lot of stability into our customers’ acquisition and modification efforts.”
Right and On-Time
The benefits of a privately-operated test facility are so significant that industry peers also frequently contract L3Harris’ MSTF to achieve their testing and certification requirements.
Missing a scheduled test window at a government facility could potentially result in months of delays. L3Harris manages its testing schedule and can operate around the clock, 365 days a year as needed. This flexibility enables L3Harris to support our customers and the broader industry to achieve their critical mission priorities.
The company offers flexible, low-cost solutions for commercial, military and government programs seeking HF to 40 GHz radiated signal sources for flight testing. It provides access to more than 600 test frequencies approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is much greater than the industry average. The facility also employs its own frequency manager for managing all frequency authorizations for our customers.
“The more frequencies we have in a band, the better calibration will be,” Parsons explained.
L3Harris provides GPS time-synchronized waveform timing as a tracking or signal source, a feature not available at most facilities. This capability has reduced flight time by 75 percent for some customers.
Radar threat simulation is not unique to L3Harris, but the company provides it consistently and at a rate lower or comparable to other testing facilities. The MSTF offers ground, naval and airborne radar simulation with approximately 100 radars in our current library with multiple modes. These are programmable for user customization and provide up to 17 simultaneous signals.
Our communications intelligence (COMINT) emitter systems provide signal density unique to L3Harris. The characteristics include transmission of eight simultaneous frequencies with more than 300 frequency steps available, along with GPS time synchronization.
Also unique to our Greenville facility is our Thor emitter, which is the only system that provides calibrated and recorded effective radiated power (ERP).
Since 2010, L3Harris has provided unique mobile COMINT capabilities from a company-owned and integrated recreational vehicle (RV) with easy set-up and calibration that can travel to and operate at anywhere in the U.S. with approved frequency authorization. The RV calibrates everything in the range of 30 MHz to 8 GHz. Customers save time and money by not having to fly assets to Texas.
Antenna testing is also a large part of what we do. Indoor antenna testing occurs in our anechoic chamber with the ability to test frequencies as low as 20 MHz.
The MSTF houses three temperature chambers in which antennas are frozen or heated to simulate altitude and flight conditions.
L3Harris also offers full, radiated test on the flight line prior to takeoff using the same signal sources as in flight. This capability ensures a system is working prior to takeoff.
“Our location on the airfield is a big-time saver,” Parsons said. “At any other range you have to takeoff and fly to test your system. Here, we can test on the ground so many aircraft issues are identified before takeoff.”
The MSTF layout minimizes travel and transport requirements, improves operational efficiency and provides designated space for development work. The facility also offers flexible shop space for rapid execution of impromptu test equipment modifications and development.
Facilities Outfitted for Success
The secure L3Harris facility provides FAA-certified air traffic control and fire/crash departments, along with Department of Defense-certified security. For example, certain aircraft programs onsite require 24/7 limited-access security. This certified staffing automatically benefits any future military or government program customers.
Testing our secure communication systems is especially important for several of our customers to verify secure voice, data and fax. This includes long distance support to off-site users, multiple special mobile radios and mobile and remote site communications networks.
Additionally, the facility has more than 12,000 square miles of FAA-coordinated airspace available for flight testing. The 10,000-foot runway, recently extended from 8,000 feet, allows testers to carry more fuel on their aircraft for extended flight time. The runway accommodates almost any type of aircraft or jet.
With 50-plus years of proven experience, L3Harris’ flight test range and MSTF provides flexible, affordable and custom solutions for our customers.