Flight and Drop Tests Provide Data to Improve Computer Modeling for Future Prototypes

During the summer of 2014, the W88 warhead program conducted two successful tests, a flight and drop test. These tests provided engineers with data that will be used to improve computer modeling for future prototypes.














The first flight test for the W88 was The Critical Radar Arming and Fuzing Test (CRAFT). CRAFT “demonstrated how the radar performed during re-entry through plasma generated by the hypersonic speeds at which the warhead travels.” The flight test was successful and showcased recent upgrades to the W88 system.

“The new radar functioned as expected after launch on a Trident II missile from a Navy submarine,” Tim Edwards, manager for the program’s technical basis, said.

The first drop test of the W88 did not go as well as the flight test. The W88 experience its first abnormal drop test since 1987.  During the test, the program “mimicked a crane accidentally dropping the re-entry body onto a concrete surface to develop evidence that it would remain safe during an accident. Using an unarmed re-entry body, Sandia conducted the test in partnership with LANL, KCP and Pantex at Sandia’s 185-foot Drop Tower Facility, using the same handling gear a crane would use to move the weapon, making the test as realistic as possible.”

“The weapon is not required to function after that, just to stay safe. Sandia will use vibration and shock measurements from the test to update specifications for components in the weapon. It also will use the information to validate computer models designed to apply the results to other drop scenarios, since it’s not possible to replicate every possible accident in tests,” Edwards added.


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