Science and Technology News

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

One-of-a-kind radio tower will double HCIC range

by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

12/18/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Looming high above the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center
is the testing facility's latest upgrade.

Recently, the Air Force erected a new 120-foot radio tower for the center, which will double communication range, correct current line-of-sight issues and support an antenna capable of reaching Joint Base Cape Cod.

"With the expanded capability, the new tower will open doors for more partnerships with federal and state agencies, industry, academia, as well as other military organizations," said. Maj. Jonathan Stueckle, who oversees the HCIC.

The HCIC serves as a testing and development arena for leading-edge advances in defense applications, cyber defenses and public safety, whose current customer base consists of various C3I and Networks and Battle Management programs as well as Massachusetts Army National Guard users.

The construction of the tower was a five-month process costing approximately $3.1 million.

A portion of that money was given to the Air Force from the state as part of a military collaboration investment. Using bonding authority provided by a military bond bill passed by the state legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Deval Patrick last year, Massachusetts provided $2.9 million for essential installation upgrades.

However, the second part of the $3 million contract must be completed before the tower is operational.

"The structure is complete, but we still need to finish the corresponding power upgrade, as well as a few other things such as lightning protection," Stueckle said.

The Air Force anticipates the power upgrade to be finished in March; meanwhile, antennas and communication equipment will slowly be transferred from the roof of the center to the structure.

In addition to expanding the center's radio range, the tower will also save the Air Force money over time because of its material and design.

Produced by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the tower is comprised of composite material, using snap-fit technology.

"It's one of a kind," Stueckle said. "Our initial estimates point to an 83 percent savings in assembly time, 75 percent on operations and close to 100 percent improvement on defects."

The utilization of composite material is projected to eliminate the majority of long-term maintenance costs on the structure.

Once things are up and running, the Air Force intends to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility, but a date has yet to be selected.

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