WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. --
The 586th Flight Test Squadron, Detachment 1, a unit of the 704th Test Group of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, is currently supporting one of the Air Force Vanguard programs – Golden Horde.
Vanguards, part of the Air Force 2030 Science and Technology Strategy, are focused on advancing emerging weapons systems and warfighting concepts through prototyping and experimentation. Golden Horde, an Air Force Research Laboratory program, is an effort to create networked collaborative weapons capable of sharing data, interacting, and developing and executing coordinated actions to improve effectiveness of the weapons.
The 586th, Det. 1’s involvement began when Golden Horde became flight-test ready and in need of access to the Department of Defense’s largest, fully-instrumented, open-air range – White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Detachment serves as the liaison to all Air Force programs using the Range.
As the sponsor of AFRL and the 780th Test Squadron while at WSMR, Det. 1 introduced range personnel to the Golden Horde concept and then served as an advocate for the test to ensure necessary resources were available. The Detachment also manages the financial and operational documentation for the test, and will handle delivery of the data post-test.
“The Golden Horde effort is innovative and incredibly complex,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Aston, 586th FLTS, Det. 1. “It is incorporating a variety of different systems from different contractors to make it a reality, and the successes that have occurred so far show how boundaries and capabilities can be pushed in a short time. From the Detachment and 704 Test Group side of the house, it is an all-hands effort leveraging the wealth of knowledge and experience here to host and support a successful deployment of the Golden Horde events.”
The first flight test of Golden Horde was conducted in late-2020. Two Collaborative Small Diameter Bombs, or CSDB, were launched from an Eglin AFB F-16 and successfully communicated between themselves to locate, self-assign and track two ground targets. However, due to a problem with the weapon Operational Flight Program the collaborative guidance commands were not accepted by the weapons and they detonated on fail-safe target locations.
A second flight test was completed earlier this year using four CSDBs. Again, the bombs successfully established communications amongst themselves. This time they identified a pop-up target, and then followed pre-programmed rules of engagement, resulting in the evaluation and striking of multiple targets in a synchronized manner.
A third test is scheduled for later this year.
As with most efforts over the past several months, COVID-19 complicated logistics for the tests.
“Maintaining social distancing and limiting traveling requires White Sands Missile Range and the customers to get creative and really determine who is needed on site to make the mission a success,” Aston said. “We were also able to leverage the Defense Research and Engineering Network between White Sands and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to have a larger party virtually present for the mission and they were able to see the target sites and telemetry in real time.”