EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — A new high-speed camera system is revolutionizing the way ammunition detonation and fragmentation data is collected.

The portable system, known as the Optical Warhead Lethality Sensor Suite, captures images of fragmentation and flying debris following the detonation of a warhead or munition. It takes this imagery and provides three-dimensional fragment mapping and characterization such as debris mass, size and shape. The OWLSS does this by providing position, velocity vector, and ballistic data for each fragment.

The system, available since early 2020, is owned and maintained here at the 96th Range Group, one of only three Air Force units to have an OWLSS. The main mission of the system here is the Arena test, a static test where the warhead is detonated and the outward detonation effects are captured, measured and analyzed.

Prior to the availability of the OWLSS, to collect data during an arena test, large fiberboard panels were stacked around the warhead. The panels caught and picked up debris thrown when the ammunition exploded. Depending on the size of the ammunition, an average of 130 panels were placed manually for each test.

This type of panel installation, teardown, analysis and disposal is costly and adds several weeks to the testing and data analysis schedule. With OWLSS, these monetary and time expenditures are greatly reduced, which will allow for faster and more agile testing, according to Kevin Stillwell, 96th RG.

“The OWLSS capability is a revolution in DOD arena testing methods for blast fragmentation data collection, the full benefits of which are still being realized,” Stillwell said. “Thus, the use of this technology would not only serve to rapidly modernize data collection techniques, but would also directly benefit developers, testers and the combatant.”

At the reception of the OWLSS, a combination of panels and cameras was first used. However, the Air Force Research Lab conducted its first Arena-only OWLSS test earlier this year, followed by another from an Air Force Lifecycle Management Center program office.

These tests used OWLSS as the primary data collection system due to its cost and labor savings compared to fiberboard. However, it will still depend on mission requirements and specific test scenarios that will dictate how the data is collected, according to Stillwell.


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