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TTR Booklet

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From the Brochure “Tonopah Test Range, Operated by Sandia National Laboratories“. There is a date on the booklet of 5/81, and the description of the computer system seems consistent with that point in time.

Since its establishment in 1958, Tonopah Test Range has functioned as a complex outdoor laboratory for Sandia-designed weapons systems. In recent years the range has additionally accepted development testing projects from Department of Defense agencies and their contractors.

Substantial improvement of the range data acquisition technique and instrumentation over the years has resulted in a unique and highly effective systems development testing capability.

This brochure describes the range, its instrumentation, management philosophy, capabilities and operation.

Range management welcomes the opportunity to serve other Government agencies and their contractors with test support which can be scheduled without interfering with DOE programs. Information for potential users appears at the end of this brochure.

The Range Environment

Located about 160 air miles northwest of Las Vegas, TTR covers 525 square miles within the boundaries of the Nellis Air Force Base Bombing and Gunnery Range. The high desert location varies from 5300 to 5600 ft. MSL elevation, receives about five inches of precipitation per year, with daily high temperatures averaging 10 degrees C in winter and 30 degrees C in the summer. This dry, moderate climate has over 300 days per year of weather good enough for electronic and optical tracking operations.

The remote location of the range, situated between two mountain ranges, and with restricted airspace, assures that tests can be conducted with a high degree of safety and security.

The vast and somewhat desolate reaches of the range are occasionally invaded by thundering herds of wild Nevada mustangs and small herds of antelope. Aside from a few birds and small animals, most other wildlife finds little to attract it to the range area.

On the accompanying map, range topography is depicted, along with location on the Nevada map. The location of permanent and mobile instrumentation sites shows that complete range coverage by both optical and electronic instrumentation can easily be obtained.

Test Operations

Three separate, but equally important functions characterize range operations:

  • Conduct each test successfully in the allotted time.
  • Acquire all desired data.
  • Perform all phases of test safely.

Bomb Drop Test

This bomb drop test sequence illustrates the effectiveness of the integrated tracking, communications, and data acquisition systems in use at TTR.

As the test delivery aircraft approaches the range on a predetermined course, one or more of the four tracking radars acquire and lock onto it as far as 100 miles away from the range. The radars then generate a continuing indication of azimuth, elevation and range of the aircraft, and, an antenna mounted TV camera also produces a high-resolution video image.

The radar and video data are multiplexed at the radar station and transmitted via microwave to the Operation Control Center. Here the data is demultiplexed and both the spatial position information and the video is presented in real-time to CRT displays in the Operations Control Center and other range functional areas. The TTR Control Center computer records the tracking data on magnetic tapes for posttest analysis.

The radar tracking data is also fed into the Target Vector Translation System (TVTS). This mini-computer system transmits the target location data to all active tracking stations on the range. Operating with this information, all of the optical and electronic tracking stations acquire and lock onto the delivery aircraft as it approaches the drop area. The telescope high-speed cameras and cinetheolodites photograph the test sequence on film which is also annotated with reference timing and pointing angles.

Telemetry stations accept transmissions from the delivery aircraft and bomb systems which the stations record on magnetic tapes from initial transmission through impact.

Throughout the test operation, the status and function of each remote tracking station is continuously transmitted to the Operations Control Center which assures that test criteria are being met.

In the plotting room and Operations Control Center a continuous plot of the aircraft approach and the trajectory of the bomb is maintained as part of the range safety function, as a visual indication of test progress and as and aid in recovery of the expended test unit.

Following the test a recovery team retrieves the test unit, which is then package and shipped to the sponsoring organization. Parts of the acquired data are immediately available after the test for a “quick-look” evaluation. All of the instrumentation data on the test including computer lab runs, charts, video and magnetic tape are shipped to Sandia Albuquerque, or other sponsoring organizations for complete data reduction and posttest analysis..

Equipment Description and Capabilities

Computer Facility

The range computer facility, consisting of two Perkin-Elmer 8/32D computers and peripherals, is the data gathering and distribution center for all test activities.

Either computer can operate in the real-time mode while the other operates in the time-sharing mode with a dial-up capability for data reduction and software development. Bus switches on all peripherals and data interfaces enable easy changeover from one computer to the other. This feature assures reliable backup capability to meet demanding test schedules.

Standard peripherals include 80 megabyte disks, nine-track magnetic tape machines, a 300 line per minute printer, an electrostatic printer/plotter, and 16 terminal interfaces.

Sandia designed interfaces include high-speed radar data input controllers, high-speed telemetry PCM data input controllers, a meteorological input controller, and IRIG B time code interface, and a range status input interface. Output devices include a network of alphanumeric CRT terminals, CRT graphic display systems, and a digital-to-analog converter.

The real-time program reads range-generated data and records it on magnetic tape for post-test analysis and display. Real-time inputs are formatted and displayed on the alphanumeric CRT terminals of the test director and range safety officer. The program translates radar tracking data to range coordinates, calculates origin and trajectory parameters, then formats the information for output to the two graphics CRT display systems. The program also decommutates telemetry PCM data for display on CRT alpha numeric terminals and strip recorders.

The time-sharing system supports eight terminals for post-test analysis and software development. Four terminals interface with data sets fro answer-only, dial-up remote terminals.

A post-test analysis software system provides versatile listing, plotting and formatting modules which allow the output data to be printed in tabular form on the line printer or on x-y plots using the electrostatic printer/plotter. Modules may be selected and run individually for parameter entry, or several modules may be linked together using a parameter file and command substitution system.

Trajectory Plotting

Two independent systems display real-time radar tracking data. A Tektronix 4081 Graphics System receives tracking data from the 8/32D computer for display on two CRT terminals. A 30 inch square plotter board, driven by a minicomputer, derives its data from the tracking vector translation system. The redundancy provided by independent systems with different data sources assures reliability, and an inherent method of cross-checking data displays.

The graphics system simultaneously displays both graphic and alphanumeric data on two 19 inch CRT terminals, located in the Range Operations Center and plotting room. The two systems are independent and are operationally related only by a common data source. The test director and range safety officer use the range operations CRT, while the plotting room personnel use the other system for ground control support, software development, and map preparation.

A map select system mated to each graphics display allows the operator to select from 16 different map displays, which radar tracks are to be used, alphanumeric display (in feet, meters, or nautical miles), radar operational status, hard copy production, and to freeze plotting data at any point.

Data arrays of space position, along with component velocities, time, and radar status for all on-line radars are input to the graphics system through a high-speed interface. A playback mode allows raw data tapes at the computer facility to be replayed so operations can be displayed in different viewing locations.

The plotting maps are created using a data base which allows a high degree of flexibility in map complexity and detail. Before use each map is tested for accuracy and calibration with simulation programs in the 4081 system.

Operations Control Center

From its location on the top floor of the Operations Building, the Operations Control Center commands a 360-degree view of the range. The center houses alphanumeric and graphic CRT displays, video monitors, air traffic radar displays, camera controls, radio nets and telephone systems.

During test operations, the test director, range safety officer, test project engineer, camera controller, and range communicator, man the consoles in the center to control and coordinate all test functions.

All of the operator consoles mount CRT’s for alphanumeric, graphic or video displays, along with telephone and radio communications links, and an IRIG time display. The test director/test project engineer’s console and the range safety officer’s console all have mission abort controls, and the range safety officer’s console also has a command destruct system installed.

A camera controller’s console mounts the instrumentation for on/off control of all operational cinetheodolites and remote cameras, and light metering equipment.

The range communicator’s console has access to all TTR telecommunications and RF nets, meteorology instrumentation, and an air traffic control radar.


The TTR radars perform a primary tracking function and also complement the other instrumentation on the range. During flight tests the radars continuously track missiles and other airborne targets. All of the radars are capable of acquiring and accurately tracking targets with or without beacons and providing trajectory data in real time or for future evaluation.

Radar coverage is provided by two C-band radars, and MRS-25 and an MPS-36; and two X-band radars, a modified M-33 and a modified MPA-58.

All four radars have optical disc encoders or synchro-to-digital devices to generate digital data outputs. The digital data is transmitted via microwave to the range Operations Control Center. Radar data output drives the plotting boards and graphic displays for test controllers and provides space position data to the computer for real-time trajectory prediction programs.

Data from all radars is formatted into a serial data train and transmitted via RF link to all range tracking stations. This information provides pointing angles for target acquisition by all range tracking instrumentation, and focus information for the optical trackers.

The radars are all equipped with closed circuit television cameras with 40 to 120-inch focal length lens. The CCTV video is superimposed with radar azimuth, elevation, range, and IRIG time of day. The video is recorded at each radar and also transmitted via microwave to Operations Control Center displays for test engineers and observers to view a mission in progress.

TTR radars are modified when required to reflect the latest state-of-the-art technology to assure maximum reliability and tracking accuracy.

Optical Tracking Equipment

A combination of motion picture and still photographic instrumentation provides complete range-wide optical tracking capability for TTR.


Eight mobile cinetheodolites cameras located at any of 23 survey-located sites. This siting arrangement assures complete motion picture coverage of the test area and approach corridor.

The cinetheodolites have focal lengths that may be set for 60-in or 120-in. and have a tracking accuracy of approximately 20-arc-seconds. C-band interrogators installed on four of the units can provide one-station solution of target space position, velocity and acceleration with an order of magnitude better accuracy than the parameters for a vehicle equipped with a transponder.

Film can be processed overnight so data for specific points in the target trajectory can be ascertained within hours. Complete reduction of optical data is usually completed in one to two weeks.

Tracking Telescopes

Ten tracking telescopes produce still photographic output from test events. Seven of the units are ME16 Newtonian telescopes with 16-in. apertures and 117.5-in. focal lengths. Four of the units are mobile and three are mounted at fixed sites. The largest range telescope is an LA24 Newtonian with a 24-in. aperture and 235-in. focal length and is a fixed unit. Both the 16-in. and 24-in. provide high resolution resulting in very clear images at long distances.

The SM2/SM3 are two smaller telescopes with 12-in. apertures and 60-in. focal lengths. Both have multiple cameras and are mounted on pedestals with a high performance slew rate of 50 degrees per second. The SM3 is also equipped with an autotracker.

Two additional camera and tracking stations each mounting an automatic 4E camera with interchangeable 6-in. and 40-in lens. The 35-mm cameras can run from one to 360 frames per second.

All of the optical trackers have the Tracking Vector Translation
Systems (TVTS) installed which receive target acquisition and
focusing data via UHF link from each operating radar station to
drive the tracking mounts.

Tracking Vector Translation System

The Tracking Vector Translation System (TVTS) acquires and distributes range tracking data. Through the TVTS, target information is formatted at each of the radar stations and relayed to the Control Center via microwave link. The Control Center multiplexes the information from the radars together and distributes the data over a single RF carrier to all radar, telemetry and optical tracking stations in operation.

The receiving stations decode the multiplexed information which provide azimuth, elevation and range of the subject target. Since the information is multiplexed, each station may select which radar to use for its tracking information. This feature allows range systems to track several targets at the same time.

TVTS modules at each tracking station provide digital readout data, calibration points for test setup and alignment of the tracking mount for preoperational procedures, focus information for optical trackers and space points for radars. The TVTS can support an unlimited number of on-line tracking stations as long as they are equipped with TVTS receiving modules.


Two fixed and two mobile telemetry ground stations provide complete range coverage. These stations can receive and record signals in the 1435-to-1535 MHz and 2200-to-2300 MHz telemetry bands. These stations may also be changed to operate in the 225-to-265 MHz band. Each of the stations is equipped with a radar-directed eight-foot parabolic antenna, predetection diversity combining receivers and a 14-channel magnetic tape recorder. Two additional ground stations are available for special applications, including gun round telemetering and close-range support.

The master ground station, located in the Operations Control Building, is instrumented for checkout and playback of all IRIG, FM/FM, PAM, and PCM formats. Real-time and quick-look data is displayed on oscillographic or hot pen strip chart recorders. The telemetry data is also input to the 8/32 computer and processed for real-time alphanumeric CRT display, and post-test listings and graphs.


An IRIG B time code generated in the master telemetry ground station synchronizes all range operations. Land lines and radio links transmit the timing signals to all instrumentation sites and to the Operations Control Center. The time code generating system is based on a cesium beam frequency standard which provides the basic stable frequency source for the time code generator. A satellite-controlled clock synchronizes the time code with universal Time Coordinated (UTC), referenced to the National Bureau of Standards, Boulder, CO.

Control functions are inserted in the time code to provide a countdown/countup clock, start/stop and frame rate commands to cinetheodolites, and start/stop commands to both manned and unmanned camera stations.

When a higher resolution time code is required by a specific instrumentation site, a translator synchronized to the IRIG B timing generates an IRIG A code for use at that site.


Test operations and day-to-day range activities are coordinated and controlled through the use of 16 communications networks.

There are ten ground-to-ground range nets and six ground-to air links. Each major range function, including radar, telemetry, cameras and ordnance is assigned one of the ground nets, and all key interfunction stations are tied together by the test operations nets. The Sandia net is used for routine range communications.

Additional radio links include a high frequency single sideband for long range communications and RF tie-ins with state police and medical emergency networks.


Three weather stations and rawindsonde balloon launches generate the range meteorological data. The weather station at the hard target measures wind speed and direction, temperature, dew point, and barometric pressure. Instrumentation on a 300-foot tower near the rocket launching area measure wind speed and direction, and temperature at three levels. Data from these two stations are transmitted over land lines to the Operations Control Center for recording and display. The metro station located at the airstrip returns data for display only.

When upper atmosphere weather conditions are required for specific tests, range personnel launch rawindsondes. Measurements of temperature, relative humidity, wind speeds and direction can be obtained at altitudes up to 90,000 feet.

Gun Test Facilities

Two fixed gun emplacements with custom-build mounts accommodate gun assemblies up to eight-inch howitzer class. Guns currently in use on the range include a 155-mm howitzer, a 155-mm Long Tom, and an eight-inch howitzer.

Support facilities at the gun site include environmental chambers where projectiles and propellants can be preconditioned at temperatures ranging from -100-degrees to +200-degrees F. Equipment for mixing and weighing powders are also available.

Instrumentation at the gun emplacements acquire breech pressure, muzzle velocity and projectile spin rate measurements. Additional equipment, including image motion cameras, Doppler radar, and special purpose telemetry gather ballistic data from projectiles in flight.

Rocket Launching Facilities

On-range installations are available for the storage, assembly, checkout and launch of a variety of rockets and missiles.

Two rocket assembly buildings and payload assembly building enable several rocket systems to be prepared simultaneously.

Four fixed launcher, all remotely set-table azimuth and elevation, have independent launch control systems to permit multiple firing operations.

TTR rocket shots have been successfully utilized for a variety of test applications including parachute development, rain erosion, vehicle stabilization, weapon fuzing, reentry vehicle performance, high altitude radio-chemistry, and chaff dispensers.

Davis Gun

The Davis gun is a smoothbore, recoilless gun designed solely as a test device. The gun functions on the momentum exchange principle, firing the test projectile and a reaction mass from both ends of the barrel at the same time.

The basic purpose of the Davis gun is to fire earth penetrators into natural or man-made targets for terradynamic testing. The mobile unit can be towed to any target area and fired at any angle. Maximum muzzle velocities are about 3000 fps for a 300 lb projectile and about 2400 fps for a 400 lb unit. The bore will accept projectiles up to 12 inch in diameter.

Photometrics and Photography

The TTR photometrics group uses a variety of high-speed and special purpose cameras for data acquisition on synchroballistic, impact, and explosion tests. Additionally, the group has full industrial photographic capability. The on-site photo lab processes 16-mm and 35-mm black and white motion picture film, and both color and black and white prints up to 16 in. by 20 in. The lab also maintains a full inventory of film for optical trackers and range cameras.

Range Support

Shops and Crafts

A number of fully equipped and staffed shops on the range provide test and operations support. Among these are facilities for machining, welding, electrical repair and installation, carpentry, plumbing and automotive maintenance.

Material Handling

Heavy equipment, including cranes, backhoes, tractors, and forklifts are available for light construction, maintenance, material handling and test vehicle recovery.

Medical Facilities

A medical aid station with an ambulance, manned by a highly qualified medical technician, is located near the range headquarters. A modern, full-service hospital is located in the town of Tonopah, about 35 miles from the range.


Security at the range is provided by Q-cleared personnel employed by Advance Security, Inc. Classified storage areas and repositories are available for test items and documents.

Fire Protection

Two fire trucks, a 5000-gallon pumper and fire rescue truck, are stationed at the range control and administrations area. This equipment is manned by a trained specialist from SNL and members of the security force. Sprinkler systems and fire hydrants installed throughout the control and administration area.

REECo Support Personnel

Many of the range logistics and support functions are performed by approximately 70 employees provided by a contract with Reynolds Electric and Engineering Co. These employees represent many of the skilled trades including carpenters, electricians, mechanics, machinists, welders, iron workers, plumbers, truck and heavy equipment operators, electronics repairmen, draftsmen, secretaries, and a paramedic.


A 10,000-foot asphalt airstrip on the range will accommodate medium weight aircraft, and is lighted and marked for night operations. Private aircraft may use the strip only with DOE approval and if they have proper radio equipment. Sandia operating personnel and some support people commute daily from Las Vegas on the DOE contractor-operated DC-9.

A Cessna L-19 single engine aircraft is available for observation and light test drops.

A Variety of motor vehicles including autos, trucks, vans and buses are available at the range. Four-wheel drive vehicles assure access to all operational areas of the range.


The flexibility and quick response capabilities of the range are shown by the fact that over 300 tests are concluded successfully each year. These include artillery round firings, bomb drops, rocket shots, fly-arounds and limited ground tests.

In addition to its scheduled testing of DOE-developed weapons systems, range personnel conducted 84 tests on Army, Navy and Air Force weapons.

Tests recently conducted on DOE programs at TTR have included air drops for development testing and stockpile sampling of the B28, B43, B53, B57, B61, B77, and the B83. Other payloads were carried aloft on Honest John, Malemute, Terrier, Zuni and Zap rockets for weapon development testing and high altitude experiments. The gun area fired many development test shots for both the W79 and W82 artillery rounds.

TTR conducted a number of tests for DoD agencies. Tests for the Army included a number of non-nuclear 155-mm artillery round firings, launches of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), and tracking of the Electronic Warfare/Close Air Support system. The Air Force used range facilities for tracking Air-Launched Cruise Missiles, testing the B52 Offensive Avionics System, and the Short Range Attack Missile. For the Navy, TTR performed tracking and data acquisition for launches of the Tomahawk Sea-Launched Cruise Missile.

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