Far off the beaten path, in the heart of the Mojave Desert, lays Inyokern, California. Blink at the wrong time driving on CA178 on the way to the Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake and you miss it. But strange and exotic things are going on, largely unseen, at the Inyokern Airport.
Here, in a non-descript building about as far from the highway as you can get without going off-road, sits GTMR Inyokern, aka GTMR IYK—GTMR’s Advanced Research and Development facility. Established in late 2013 and set up to be a “one stop shop”, its mission is to take requirements and specifications from our customers and deliver fully functional hardware and systems at minimum cost to the consumer. As such, Inyokern has its own logistics center, and electronics development/production and cable/mechanical/structural shops to go from concept to components to systems in minimum time.
GTMR IYK is the home of Project THOR, a mobile, high fidelity multi-threat signal simulator developed under the auspices of the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) Mission Systems Test organization at China Lake. THOR has been designed as a replacement to the currently deployed JSF RANGE DEER single threat signal simulator with orders of magnitude more capability than its progenitor and at a significantly lower per-channel cost than any other current or projected simulator of its type.
THOR at the component level is highly modular and can be “racked and stacked” to meet any test or training requirement—frombasic one-signal-at-a-time, to a full-up IADS.
THOR Baseline (awaiting start funding) will be fully autonomous with each of the four systems mounted in a 24 foot long utility trailer supporting both the hardware and the operators in any temperature environment, and each system capable of transmitting up to twelve simultaneous signals through roof mounted “tracking” antennas. THOR Mobile (fielded) is a subset of the Baseline system specifically designed to “go to sea” or as an RF target on weapon test ranges. Each Mobile is contained in a 3x3x5 steel anti-shrapnel box, which can be easily rolled on and off the support trailer even in the soft sugar sand of test range impact areas, or easily craned onto ships or work boats as required for specific testing. THOR 5/THOR HighPower (in work) is installed in a modified 8’x10’ conex (system/ operator/antenna mounting provisions) which can be deployed via flatbed trailer to any site (for test evolutions, in the HighPower configuration) and serves as the IYK onsite “remote” reconfigurable test facility (THOR 5) when not deployed.
At the direction of the JSF PEO, the China Lake JSF Mission Systems Test organization responds to test requirements for platforms other than F-35 on a not to interfere basis for RANGE DEER/THOR operator training purposes. As such, IYK responds to both unique RANGE DEER Upgrade requirements and QRC special tasking beyond the core THOR systems.
When a requirement arose for a basic 60RPM 1-18GHz spinning antenna, IYK designed and built it “from the ground up” at under $5k in COTS parts in under a month (and most ofthat was waiting for “long lead” items)—then subsequently modified it per the sponsor’s tasking into a 3D tracking antenna system.
When short fused tasking came in for a frequency specific omni antenna capable of handling 300W (CW), IYK had two built, tuned, tested and in the field in less than a week. Requiring a higher reflector gain from the RANGE DEER TASETS antenna system and looking at an estimated $20k bill per system by the TASETS OEM, GTMR succeeded in executing the required modifications at under $1.5k per system.
In addition to the R&D function, GTMR also supports realtime Mission System test and training events with system operators and as a physical test range onsite at IYK in the 5+ acre fence-enclosed “playground” behind the facility. This area allows the government/contractor team to set up the required simulator(s) within the secured space indefinitely and permits quick response live testing for aircraft solely on the basis of a phone call. When compared to the “normal” coordination requirements for more formal DOD RF/EW test range services, the IYK typical 1.5 hour response time from tasking call to “system hot” is unique and in high demand. It’s not uncommon to see several aircraft types overhead, and even Marine Force Recon teams leasing the trailers from the airport perimeter road, in quickly coordinated, ad hoc test and training events at Inyokern.
The responsiveness and high level of success at IYK is directly attributable to the quality and mission-first attitude of its small staff. At Inyokern, there’s no such thing as “ain’t my job”: loggies build cables, populate circuit boards and double as machinists; electronic technicians learn to weld and bend sheetmetal; engineers sweep floors and hump sandbags. If something needs to get done, it gets done—now—by who ever is available to do it.
It’s not without substance that the local motto is “Nos Fieri Marius”—loosely translated “We Make (something) Happen”.
- by Doug Jones,GTMR co-founder