White Sands Missile Range is an integral part of the Army Test and Evaluation Command tasked directly in supporting Army Futures Command, but in essence it is a de facto Joint Range.
Navy and Air Force Test Detachment Commanders are dual-hatted as deputies to the CG, but on any given day, a visitor could look around and think we also belong to a Combined Command, seeing the familiar uniforms from fellow U.S. sister services, as well as the less familiar from France, Germany, Japan, Korea or Poland here to participate in or to observe a test.
White Sands Missile Range is a Team of Teams, home to elements from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force with each service having Command, Control and Communication nodes on-site.
Additionally, other organizations at White Sands Missile Range include NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, The Research Analysis Center, and the Center for Countermeasures and Combat Capabilities Development Command (Data and Analysis Center and Army Research Laboratory). But our longest continuous partnership has been with a Sister Service one might least expect to find here in the desert.
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division, What Sands Detachment
The Navy has been part of the test community at White Sands Missile Range since 1946 when it arrived to participate in research and testing of captured German V-2 rockets.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the Navy continued to launch rockets for atmospheric research, and in the 1950s its responsibilities expanded from rocketry into the testing of surface-to-air missile defense systems. Its ongoing mission includes land-based testing of naval weapon systems missiles such as the electromagnetic railgun at its iconic USS Desert Ship that sits in a sea of sand. The USS Desert Ship is also designated LLS-1, for 'Land Locked Ship' number one.
Built in the 1950s to functionally duplicate the fire control requirements of a surface ship, the Desert Ship was originally used to test the Talos missile, and is now is primarily used for live fire testing of the Navy´s STANDARD Missile. The Desert Ship remains as one of two "Land-Locked Ships" operated by the U.S. Navy, the other being the USS Rancocas in New Jersey.
White Sands Missile Range and our nearby neighbor Holloman Air Force Base share a long history in the Tularosa Basin, dating back to the Trinity Site test when we were known as White Sands Proving Ground and the Alamogordo Bombing Range.
Today, the 704th Test Group commander serves as the White Sands Missile Range Deputy for Air Force and is responsible for all Air Force test events at WSMR. The mission of the 704th is to operate world-class test facilities for guidance and navigation system testing, high-speed sled track testing, radar signature measurements, aircraft survivability testing, landing gear testing and weapons system flight testing, as well as test and evaluation liaison for U.S. Air Force Research and Development programs working with directed energy.
The contrails of Holloman jets can be spotted streaking above White Sands Missile Range airspace while conducting weekend training sorties. On the ground, White Sands Missile Range is able to conduct testing such as the Holloman High Speed Test Track, a 10-mile long rocket test and aerospace test facility that is the most precisely aligned and instrumented facility of its kind in the world.
The track is used to simulate selected trajectories of aircraft and missiles under stringent conditions. Sled speeds up to 7,000 feet per second are routine, and, depending on payload size, accelerations above 200 Gs have been demonstrated.
Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency enables the U.S. Government and International partners to counter and deter weapons of mass destruction and improvised threat networks by providing capabilities to reduce, eliminate and counter those threats and mitigate their effects.
Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., its primary testing location for Research and Development Enterprise is at White Sands Missile Range where it maintains a broad spectrum of target types on its test beds and directs the development and implementation of new weapons technologies against those targets.
Aerial Cable Range
And when it comes to testing, our Aerial Cable Range is probably among the more simple, yet unusual methods to offer a mobile target for surface to air, or air to air weaponry.
Outdistancing the longest zip lines in the world sought out by thrill seekers, the White Sands Missile Range Aerial Cable Range features a 2.5 inch Kevlar cable stretching 15,500 feet (almost 3 miles) at a height of 2,500 feet above the desert floor.
Used by our sister services and NATO partners, the Aerial Cable Range offers targets traveling at speeds up to 138 mph powered only by the force of gravity, and twice that velocity if boosted by a rocket.
Such a wide and varied network of teams is needed to achieve the more than 3,000 tests conducted annually at White Sands Missile Range. Indeed, testing is why we exist, and it takes such a Team of Teams to fulfill our mission to test, prove and rapidly field weapon systems that allows the United States to deter, and if necessary, decisively defeat any adversary anytime, anyplace.
Could anything less be expected when you’re testing the future and changing the world?