Local NATO Operation: KRC to be testing ground for NATO military research

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center, discusses an upcoming meeting at the KRC which will draw more than 200 people from North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and others later this month.

HANCOCK — The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has selected Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center as its research site for a next-generation predictor of how military vehicles handle different terrain.

“Whenever anybody comes up with a new vehicle for production, they’ll have to use this software to prove to the Army that it has the mobility it needs, and they’ll have to test it at the KRC,” Jay Meldrum, director of KRC, said at Wednesday’s Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance meeting.

In preparation, the KRC has expanded its test course from 500 acres to 900, building additional special features, Meldrum said.

About 200 attendees from NATO countries will attend a meeting on the development of the new model from Sept. 24-27 at the KRC. The demonstration is open to NATO countries, Australia, Finland, Sweden, Japan, South Korea and South Africa, according to a NATO announcement of the meeting.

For security reasons, the event will be closed to the public, Meldrum said.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Jay Meldrum presents Charlie Hopper, general manager of Pasty.net, with a plaque honoring 1 million pasties sold through Pasty Central at Wednesday’s Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance meeting. The plaque bears a 3-D printing of the millionth pasty.

NATO is funding the research along with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development & Engineering Center in Warren, Michigan.

The KRC is one of only three places in the world that could have done the testing, Meldrum said. The others are in Nevada and Grayling, Michigan.

“We raised our hand real fast for this one and said, ‘We can do this,'” he said.

The course is digitized in a 3-D model, as is the vehicle. A simulation then predicts whether the vehicle will be able to move in various conditions.

The vehicles run through courses at the KRC to compare it to the simulations:

•In one setting, robotic vehicles drive over a mountain and then through a culvert that puts it out of touch with any internet radio controls.

•Another is a “no-go slope” where vehicles try to drive up sand.

The KRC has tested vehicles for the past 20 years with NATO’s older model, Meldrum said.

“This next-generation NATO reference mobility model is going to take this to a whole new level, with newer software, larger computers,” Meldrum said.