Dugway Proving Grounds
The mission of Dugway is to test U.S. and Allied biological & chemical defense systems; perform Nuclear Biological Chemical survivable testing of defense material; provide support to chemical and biological weapons conventions; and Operate and maintain an installation to support test mission. Dugway is located approximately 80 miles west-southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah in Tooele County. DPG, covering 798,855 acres, is located in the Great Salt Lake Desert, approximately 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, the proving grounds terrain varies from level salt flats to scattered sand dunes and rugged mountains.
DPG includes mountains, valleys, and a large, flat, sparsely vegetated area that extends westward into the southern reaches of expansive salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert. In 1941, the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) determined that it needed a large-scale chemical and biological warfare testing area. With increased population growth near the U.S. Army's Edgewood Arsenal, MD, and because of restrictions on various testing there, the CWS surveyed the western U.S. for a new location to conduct its tests. The construction of Dugway Proving Ground began in the spring of 1942. In February 1943 an airport with a 5,200-foot runway was completed.
DPG was officially established 12 February 1942, and testing commenced in the summer of that year. During World War II, DPG tested toxic agents, flame throwers, chemical spray systems, biological warfare weapons, antidotes for chemical agents, and protective clothing. In October 1943, DPG established biological warfare facilities at an isolated area within DPG (Granite Peak). DPG was slowly phased out after W.W.II, becoming inactive during August 1946. The base was reactivated during the Korean War and in 1954 was confirmed as a permanent Department of Army installation. In October 1958, DPG became home to the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, and Radiological (CBR) Weapons School, which moved from the U.S. Army Chemical Center, MD.
In March 1968, 6,400 sheep were found dead after grazing in south Skull Valley, an area just outside Dugway's boundaries. When examined, the sheep were found to have been poisoned by a deadly nerve agent called VX. The incident, coinciding with the birth of the environmental movement and anti-Vietnam protests, created an uproar in Utah and internationally.
Today DPG continues its role in the testing of chemical agents, pathogens, and toxins, now conducted in sealed containment chambers (rather than open air testing as in the past). Other activities at DPG include Army Reserve and National Guard component maneuver training, and U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center.
Many of Dugways test facilities are located in the Ditto Test Area, approximately 12 miles from the installations main gate. The biological test facility and test grids are situated farther west in Dugways remote desert area.
Dugway is controlled by the U.S. Army Test Command (TECOM). The Department of Defense has designated U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) as a major range and testing facility, and the primary chemical and biological defense testing center under the Reliance Program. Testers here determine the reliability and survivability of all types of military equipment in a chemical or biological environment. The chemical laboratory, permitted storage area, and many test related activities are operated under contract.
The Reginald Kendall Combined Chemical Test Facility (CCTF) is a state-of-the-art 48,000 square foot chemical laboratory facility designed to support testing of chemical warfare defensive equipment. Specific areas of the mission include evaluation of chemical agent detectors, testing of personnel and collective protective equipment (e.g., masks, clothing, shelters, etc.), testing of decontaminants, evaluation of military equipment for NBC survivability, analysis of waste and environmental samples, and safety air monitoring.
The enormous size of U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground's Melvin Bushnell Materiel Test Facility (MTF) makes it an ideal test ground for large vehicles and aircraft, including tanks or fighter aircraft. High-tech capabilities ensure testing in the MTF can replicate real-world battlefield conditions. Test environments can include the use of chemical agents and simulants, as well as any number of interferents, such as signal smoke, fog oil, burning brush or rags. These are used in attempts to confuse the chemical detectors during testing. A technician's command can change the "weather" inside this 50-by-50-by-30-foot chamber, mimicking any number of climactic conditions. Temperatures can vary from minus 40 to 150 F while the relative humidity can range from 4 to 95 percent. Other MTF chambers include the Agent Transfer Chamber (ATC) and the Closed System Chamber (CSC). The ATC, which measures 25-by-25-by-20 feet, supports agent transfers, monitoring, and dissemination. The CSC, which is the same size as the ATC, supports small chamber and glovebox tests.
DPG is located within the Great Salt Lake Desert, a subdivision of the Bonneville Basin, which is also part of the Great Basin Desert. The Bonneville Basin was once covered by the Pleistocene freshwater of Lake Bonneville, which deposited sediments on the salt covered flats that may reach depths of 610 meters. The old lakebed is categorized as cold desert or as Intermountain Sagebrush province. Elevations range from a low of approximately 1,400 meters to a high at nearby Ibapah peak of 3,684 meters. The topography within DPG contains broad valleys separated by north south trending mountain ranges. There are several isolated mountains. Most mountain ranges here were formed in a sequence of folding and block activity. Lava flows are visible in the majority of the ranges, but some (such as Granite Mountain) have granitic intrusions. The broad valley floors are filled with alluvium from the nearby mountains, resulting in distinctive physiographic features, such as piedmont slope (bajada) and nearly level basin floors. Pleistocene glaciers created Lake Bonneville, which resulted in gravel beaches, deltas, gravel bars, lake plains, and shorelines. These lake bed features are still visible in the area.
Habitat in the vicinity is characterized by salt desert vegetation (pickleweed, shadscale, gray molly, greasewood, budsage, juniper brush) interspersed with barren salt flats, along with stabilized and active dunes. Non-native plants such as cheat grass and Russian thistle are invading DPG at a fast pace. Cheat grass is estimated to cover 11.4% of DPG and (if present expansion continues) estimates indicate it could cover 25% of DPG by the year 2025.
The climate is arid as mountain ranges surrounding the Great Basin deplete moisture from storm systems. Most moisture enters the Great Basin from the south. Average annual rainfall for DPG is less than 17 cm. Temperature extremes range from 43ºC to - 31ºC, with an average maximum range of 18ºC and minimum +3ºC.
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