Subscale Drone, WEG Facilities Undergo Massive Improvements

  • Published
  • By Venessa Armenta
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group's headquarters along with the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron's new subscale drone complex are on the way to completion.

Though the 53rd WEG, a tenant unit with three additional squadrons, reports to the 53rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, daily operations occur at Tyndall AFB due to the installation’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

Due to the unit’s unique mission, project managers working on the facilities wanted to ensure the buildings would be equipped with everything needed to carry out mission objectives most effectively.

“The civil engineering community often uses standardized designs for commonly seen facilities, like the Child Development Center,” said Mark Blake, Natural Disaster Recovery Division execution branch deputy and project manager. “Those are basically the same throughout the Air Force as they all operate similarly. With the [53rd] WEG having a very particular mission, we considered their requirements at the beginning of the design process and used guidance documents to determine the appropriate authorized square footage and design of the buildings.”

With both projects being built from the ground up, Blake mentioned his team worked closely with the 53rd WEG and 82nd ATRS leadership to implement the necessary facility functions, stressing how important their involvement was to these projects.

The WEG headquarters, awarded at $189 million, is projected to consist of a single building with 12 hangar bays and a parking apron measuring at approximately 250,250 square feet. Though the facility will be substantial in size, its capabilities cannot be overshadowed.

“The WEG headquarters will be outfitted with many facilities-related control systems, which exemplify the ‘Installation of the Future’ initiatives,” Blake said. “These systems include state-of-the-art sensors and controls to optimize energy consumption and facilitate timely facility maintenance, utilizing occupancy sensors, lighting controls and HVAC performance monitoring.” 

In addition to the new group headquarters, the 82nd ATRS is set to receive a new $71.3 million subscale drone complex comprised of four facilities totaling approximately 97,360 square feet.

The unit provides full and subscale autonomous drones during live-fire Weapons Systems Evaluation Programs, so pilots from across the Department of Defense can hone their skills during air-to-air combat training missions.

“There are two distinct functions for subscale drones that resulted in two main buildings,” Blake said. “One is an aircraft maintenance building and the other is electronic pod shop maintenance.”

The additional two buildings, which are smaller in size, are designed to store drones and additional components, maximizing operational efficiency and safety.

When discussing improvements made to the subscale drone complex, Blake explained that one of the most notable is its new location. The complex has been moved to help reduce the transportation time of the BQM-167A Subscale Aerial Targets used during training.

“The completion of the new subscale drone facility will consolidate the entire subscale target franchise adjacent to the launch pad for the first time in the history of the program,” said Lt. Col. Kory Einreinhofer, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron commander. “Pulling in the 12 or more shops that have been displaced across the base after Hurricane Michael into one facility will provide the 82nd [ATRS] and the [53rd] WEG with the ability to raise the standard of the subscale aerial target generation, modification, launch, recovery and salvage.”

All building components are designed to meet Miami-Dade building code specifications and are expected to withstand 165 mile per hour winds, making the new facilities more resilient to potential future natural disasters.

The 53rd WEG facility is estimated to be completed by fall 2025, with the Subscale Drone Complex projected to be completed a year prior in winter 2024.