At the Utah Test & Training Range, the U.S. Air Force puts its combat pilots through rigorous trials of bombing runs akin to what they might face in Iraq or Afghanistan.
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At Hill Air Force Base, north of Salt Lake City, personnel from the 388th Range Squadron, as well groups of civilians and various contractors can watch and direct missions at the Utah Test & Training Range (UTTR), the Defense Department's largest bombing range.
CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman visited both UTTR and the command center at Hill Air Force Base as part of his Road Trip 2009 project.
At UTTR, the Air Force, as well as other military services practice hitting targets with both inert and live bombs, and from most active Air Force bombers.
A cine-thedolite, which is used by the Air Force at UTTR to photograph missions. At least three, and ideally four, cine-T's, as they're known, are spread out over several miles and used to triangulate imagery of bombing missions, allowing the Air Force to collect data on the missions to within centimeter accuracy.
A look up at the cameras inside a Cine-T. For now, the Air Force is still using film for these cameras, but it is looking to transition to digital as soon as the quality and speed becomes cost-effective.
A MUTE, or a Multiple Threat Emitter Simulator, which is designed to send out signals that pilots of bombers on missions at the Utah Test & Training Range will receive and interpret as data affecting their mission.
So, for example, analysts can program many different kinds of threats that the pilots must deal with as they carry out their mission on the base just as if they were dealing with the threats on a real bombing mission.
Smaller MUTEs, each of which has between five and seven transmitters, instead of 19 on a main MUTE, and which is designed to challenge pilots with scenarios to mimic what they'd encounter during real-world missions. The MUTE operators, then, are the "bad guys," trying to stop the pilots from completing their missions by throwing wrenches in the works.
Analysts track the pilots on these IFF--Identification Friend or Foe--screens, which shows a symbol for any aircraft in the region. The white symbols represent commercial aircraft, while military craft would be in orange-yellow.
This tank is used at the range to autonomously pull targets around the range. The tank is set up to run a specific course at a specific speed without a human driver. The target trails behind and pilots must try to hit it.
The Air Force is preparing to deploy this Ford F-350 truck, which it has geared up with tens of thousands of dollars of GPS equipment so that the truck can autonomously pull a moving target at more than 50 miles an hour.
A driver will run the truck through a course first, and then afterward, it should be able to drive itself through the same course.