Ensuring equipment is battle ready

An Army Boxer vehicle in the Electric Communications Laboratory at the Land Engineering Agency Proving Ground, Monegeetta, Victoria. Photo: Jay Cronan

Ensuring equipment is battle ready

The Land Engineering Agency recognised decades of designing, developing and testing Army equipment when it celebrated its 80th birthday on November 11.

It has blown up vehicles, fired millions of rounds and pushed equipment to breaking point – tests which have all led to improvements that have saved lives.

The agency provides specialist engineering support and testing for things such as weapons, surveillance systems, clothing, communications and vehicle survivability enhancements.

Specialist staff have skills not found elsewhere in the industry, allowing them to undertake engineering activities to support Army.

Their work has led to achievements in areas such as night-fighting equipment, soldier combat systems and protected mobility vehicles. 

Much of the agency’s testing occurs at a 260ha site in Monegeetta, Victoria, where equipment is exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and subjected to vibration and drop testing.

An armaments facility tests weapons and armour, while vehicles are put through their paces on a test track. Communications, optics and electro-magnetic signatures are also assessed.


Electronics testing

Blue foam pyramids that absorb sound cover the walls and roof of the Land Engineering Agency’s electronics and communications lab.

The latest test bed features the new Boxer undergoing electromagnetic compatibility testing, focusing on radio and intelligent electronic device transmissions.

These tests ensure signals from the vehicle’s integrated subsystems don’t interfere with each other or the Boxer’s integrated electronics.

Lab manager Lynton Rance said sensitive receivers on military radios made them susceptible to low levels of interference, which can result in reduced range and restrict the overall effectiveness.

“If we do find something [during testing] we have a chance to fix it before it gets released to our soldiers,” Mr Rance said.

The agency also tests systems for electromagnetic radiation hazards and field range.


Ballistics testing

The engineers at the light armament facility in Monegeetta understand the science that keeps weapons firing safely.

They know an HK417 marksman rifle still works when subjected to 72C temperatures, simulating long exposure to the sun.

They also know how many rounds you can put through a Blaser sniper rifle before the barrel wears out – ensuring acquisition teams understand the requirements for sustaining the weapon.

The tests are conducted under standardised NATO conditions to assess suitability for procurement and sustainment.

The lab often conducts tests such as plugging a barrel with mud and firing it to check back-pressure and dropping it from six different positions to check it won’t accidently discharge.

About 60,000 rounds are fired through three of the same weapon type to check durability.

In the on-site, purpose-built indoor firing range with high-speed cameras also record body armour testing, typically checking batches of body armour before acquisition.


Pressure testing

At the data acquisition and analysis labs at Monegeetta, equipment and vehicles undergo tests focused on manufacturer claims, allowing engineers to compile engineering data on how gear behaves.

Mechanical engineer and lab manager Dominik Dudkiewicz and his team are currently testing the effectiveness of combat hearing protection against a series of different weapon systems.

The project started earlier this year, looking to determine restrictions on how many rounds can be fired.

The lab is also responsible for testing vehicles against a series of blast serials. However, before the test can begin, months of planning goes into the preparation of vehicles and equipment.

“There’s the tedious part of documenting the location of every sensor and every detail,” Mr Dudkiewicz said.

“Everything is set up and meticulously double checked – the last thing you want is to blow up a vehicle that’s had months of work put in and not capture the data we need.”


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