Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aviation Systems

Major Professor

Richard J. Ranaudo

Committee Members

George W. Masters, Robert B. Richards


Conducting weapons test in the U.S. Navy’s Point Mugu Sea Test Range requires clearing a hazard pattern using aircraft equipped with surface search radar to ensure that inert debris from a weapons system test does no t impact non participating vessels or personnel. This mission is referred to as range surveillance and clearance.

The purpose of this thesis is to discuss a standardized method that objectively validates an aircraft for use as a range surveillance and clearance asset. The goal is for the method to be cost effective, easily repeatable, adaptable to as many different types of airborne assets as possible, and one which provides the range authorities a high confidence and defendable method to accept an aircraft as suitable for the mission.

The proposed method was created from a study of range clearance procedures and requirements. The study included review of directly applicable and analogous test instructions and interviews with range safety personnel, subject matter experts on radar, and experienced mission operators (aircrew and surface surveillance). The method was also based on the author’s experience as project officer responsible for testing an aircraft for this mission.

The investigation led to the creation of a list of objective requirements, primarily found in current instructions. An organizational process was then defined with the purpose of providing a structure by which roles and responsibilities are assigned, as well as to delineate the final approval authority for the process. Next, a method was developed that uses information gathered about the aircraft under consideration and compares it against the requirements through a preliminary review. This review consists of a computer simulation of expected radar performance and a comparison of basic aircraft performance and capabilities such as range, endurance and speed. Once the preliminary review is complete, the aircraft is evaluated during a ground systems preflight check and a flight test. These evaluations are designed to provide qualitative and quantitative data that can be analyzed to determine if the aircraft under consideration meets the established requirements. Lastly, a method for determining the degree to which the test aircraft met the requirements is presented. This method is explained using available historical data from a flight test report which evaluated a C-130 aircraft configured with AN/APS-115 surface search radar for the range surveillance and clearance mission.

The findings of this study indicate that it is possible to develop a generic method for validation that would give the Range Commander a high confidence that aircraft utilized in this mission are suitable for the tasks required. Although many of the test instructions consulted and the author’s experience were primarily related to the Point Mugu Sea Test Range, the results of this thesis could be applied to any test range requiring the use of a range surveillance and clearance aircraft.

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