The Redstone Test Center received certification in late August from the DOD International AIMS Program Office qualifying it as a Department of Defense AIMS test facility, making it the only such certified test facility in the country.
The DOD AIMS Project Office is the equivalent authority for the certification of military transponder systems as the Federal Aviation Administration is for governing civilian aircraft transponder systems.
A transponder is a beacon system that identifies an aircraft, as well as defines whether or not the aircraft is friendly in nature, in the realm of air defense and airspace surveillance radar systems, such as the systems used by air traffic controllers and in combat theaters. For aircraft to safely fly in national and international airspace, the transponder systems, as integrated into each aviation platform, must be tested and certified.
The new test facility certification means that Redstone Test Center is the only AIMS-certified test facility in the USA for flight testing to the minimum standards and interoperability of aircraft identification systems.
Receiving this designation has been an arduous six-year process, which was started and seen to completion by Dodi Walker, RTC test engineer. After beginning her career testing radios and transponders and other navigation systems for the center, she noticed a test capability gap and found a solution. At the time, the center was testing the systems primarily on a component level, which put them in more of a support role. The center was required to ferry the test aircraft out to another state for actual flight testing. The transportation of the equipment, the fuel, the personnel, etc., required exponentially more coordination plus increased test costs.
The first related testing is scheduled to begin in mid- to late-October.