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Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC)

The Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) range systems provide accurate underwater and in-air tracking for both firing platforms and targets using a variety of acoustic beacons and sensors. By taking advantage of the growing maturity of underwater acoustic telemetry, AUTEC can also provide two-way digital data communications with submarines operating at speed and depth. Systems already under test have demonstrated reliable, secure, two-way data transmission over several nautical miles at data rates exceeding one kilobit per second (Kbps). While this is neither wide-band nor long range, it adequately supports the current requirement, and expected advancements will bring higher data rates and longer ranges in the future.

The Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) Operating Areas (OPAREA) are located in the vicinity of Andros Island, Bahamas. Facilities and instrumentation for deep-water test and evaluation are available. The complex consists of the following instrumented operating areas:

  • OPAREA T-1 through T-8
  • AUTEC Shallow Water OPAREA
  • Large Area Tracking Range (LATR)

The following non-instrumented danger areas which are the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) equivalent to warning areas are located in this OPAREA:

  • Danger Area D-3002
  • Danger Area D-3003

AUTEC's semi-tropical climate, quiet acoustic environment, and extensive capabilities make it an ideal year-round test facility. AUTEC is located at Andros Island because of its close proximity to the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO). TOTO is a unique deep-water basin approximately 110 nautical miles long (204 kilometers) and 20 nautical miles wide (almost 37 kilometers), varying in depth form 700-1100 fathoms (1280-2012 meters). The basin floor is relatively smooth and soft, with very gradual depth changes. TOTO is bounded on the west by Andros Island, to the south and east by large areas of very shallow banks that are non-navigable, and to the north by the Northwest Providence Channel. This unique geography results in very low vessel traffic, minimal distant shipping noise, an absence of large ocean swells, and slight currents, while providing operational security and easy access to deep water. These factors make the TOTO an excellent location for a test facility.

North of the TOTO, in the southern boundary of the Northwest Providence Channel, is a shallow-water plateau that varies in depth from 5-400 fathoms (9-731 meters). This convenient plateau, which is adjacent to the Berry Islands, is a prime choice for satisfying littoral warfare test requirements. Other surrogate shallow-water test sites off the east coast of Florida are also available.

AUTEC consists of two facilities. One is located in West Palm Beach, Florida and supports test planning, logistics, and administrative requirements. The actual test facility and range complex is located 285 km/177 nm southeast of West Palm Beach at Andros Island and the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO) in the Bahamas. Access to Andros Island is limited and must be arranged through the Commander, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division in Newport, Rhode Island. The AUTEC test facility on Andros Island covers approximately 1 square mile. The test range sea surface covers 2,670 nm2, and unlimited altitude airspace covers 835 nm2.

AUTEC aircraft make scheduled daily flights between West Palm Beach and Andros Town Airport. Commercial flights and special charters are available to supplement the AUTEC flights. Major test support facilities on Andros Island are located at Site 1 in the Command Control Building and Range Support Facility. The Command Control Building houses the range tracking displays and replay centers, the computer center, photo lab, communications center and the central timing system.

The Range Support Facility houses a torpedo post-run workshop, Mk 46/Mk 50 Intermediate Maintenance Activities (IMA), a Target Mk 30 IMA, a Mk 48 R&D Turnaround and extensive technical laboratory facilities. The complex includes electrical and physical calibration labs, a complete electronics maintenance shop, a dive locker, a precision machine shop/office and logistic spaces.

AUTEC has a 285 foot long concrete pier with a controlling depth of 17 feet (5.2 meters) at mean low tide. An adjacent wharf is approximately 240 feet long (72 meters) with a controlling depth of 15 feet at mean low tide. 440 VAC power is available at both locations (200 and 60 Amp at the pier and 60 Amp at the wharf). Facilities at the pier/marine area include fully equipped machine/fabrication and marine overhaul shops.

At Site 1 there are six Range User Buildings (RUBs) available to range users for assembling test equipment and equipment check-outs during a mobilization or dockside period. These staging areas are equipped with a variety of power sources, gantry cranes, compressed air and other minimal to maximum security capabilities. A fully equipped range user hanger, for ground maintenance and storage of helos, is located adjacent to the helo landing area.

Designed specifically as a high-precision RDT&E test facility, the Weapons Range is primarily used to gather highly accurate positional data required to analyze and assess the performance of undersea warfare weapons, weapons systems, and component subsystems. The range provides for 3-dimensional in-water and in-air tracking of multiple objects simultaneously, making it suitable for testing both shipboard and aircraft weapons systems.

The Weapons Range is roughly parallel to the east coast of Andros Island. It is the larger and more versatile of the AUTEC ranges, being over 9 nautical miles wide (17 kilometers) and 35 nautical miles lone (65 kilometers), and capable of tracking nine objects simultaneously. The range is supported by the Main Base (Site 1) and various smaller sites located to the south along the east coast of Andros Island. AN/WQC-2A Sonar Communications Sets provide underwater voice and command link coverage, while HF and UHF radio communications are available over the entire range.

In-air tracking extends to about 70,000 feet (21,000 meters) over the Weapons Range. In-air data are taken in the same coordinate system as the in-water tracking data, allowing multiplatform tests to be monitored in real time and facilitating post-test analysis. Surveillance radars are provided to assure safety.

The in-water portion of the Weapons Range is divided into two instrumented sections located about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) apart. The larger section, located off Sites 3 and 4, consists of a rectangular array of hydrophones covering an area approxiamately 5 nautical miles wide (9 kilometers) by 15 nautical miles long (28 kilometers). The section provides in-water tracking over an area of up to 230 square nautical miles. The second section, located to the southeast of Site 1, provides a tracking area of about 120 square nautical miles. The two sections of the Weapons Range may be used either independently or simultaneously to support tests.

The primary mission of AUTEC's Fleet Operational Readiness Accuracy Check site (FORACS) is to perform precision measurements of the accuracy of target and navigation sensors installed on surface ships, submarines, and helicopters. AUTEC is certified by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to perform Sensor Accuracy Tests and is affiliated with the NATO FORACS program. The eight participating NATO member nations are Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

AUTEC has a variety of underwater acoustic measurement systems. For measuring the acoustic signatures of quiet vehicles, a high-gain vertical line array is deployed from a boat rigged for quiet operation. The line array is lowered to the running depth of the submerged vehicle so that the vehicle lies within the beamwidth of the line array. Other systems include a portable measurement system composed of a hydrophone, cable, and spectrum analyzer, all powered by batteries and operable from small boats; calibrated, broadband sonobuoys (AN/SQQ-58) for remote collection of ambient noise, biologics, etc.; an omnidirectional hydrophone located on the OHDF, supplemented by an array of sensors, for measuring the acoustic noise of buoyant ascent vehicles. These systems are often operated within the Weapons Range to conveniently measure the separation distances between test vehicle and hydrophone(s) which allow accurate range corrections.

AUTEC, the Navy's premier east coast in-water test facility, recently established a shallow-water test range and minefield to meet the need for operations and evaluation in the challenging littoral environment. Conveniently situated just 8 miles from our local landing site, the shallow-water facility is located 65 miles (120 kilometers) north of AUTEC Site 1 in the southern boundary of the Northwest Providence Channel in the Berry Islands, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.



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