The proving ground conducts tests on nearly every weapon in the ground combat arsenal. Nearly all the long-range artillery testing for U.S. ground forces takes place here in an area almost completely removed from urban encroachment and noise concerns. Restricted airspace controlled by the test center amounts to over 2,000 square miles (5,000 km2). Yuma Proving Ground has the longest overland artillery range (40 miles or 64 kilometres) in the nation, the most highly instrumented helicopter armament test range in the Department of Defense, over 200 miles (300 km) of improved road courses for testing tracked and wheeled military vehicles, over 600 miles (1,000 km) of fiber-optic cable linking test locations, and the most modern mine and demolitions test facility in the western hemisphere. Realistic villages and road networks representing urban areas in Southwest Asia have been constructed and are used for testing counter-measures to the threat of roadside bombs.
The General Motors Desert Proving Ground – Yuma opened at the proving ground in late July 2009. General Motors built the facility at a cost of more than $100 million after closing its desert automotive test facility in Mesa, Arizona, that had been in operation since 1953. The new facility allows Army automotive testers to test their wheeled vehicles all year-round. It is estimated that the track can be used to test about 80 percent of the Army's wheeled vehicle fleet.
More than 3,000 people, mostly civilians, work at the proving ground, which is the largest employer in Yuma County.
In a typical year, over 500,000 artillery, mortar and missile rounds are fired, 36,000 parachute drops take place, 200,000 miles (320,000 km) are driven on military vehicles, and over 4,000 air sorties are flown from the proving ground's Laguna Army Airfield.
About 10 percent of the proving ground's workload is training. In a typical year, dozens of units come to the facility for realistic desert training, especially before deploying overseas.
Yuma Proving Ground's clean air, low humidity, skimpy rainfall – only about 3 inches (76 mm) per year – and annual average of 350 sunny days, add up to almost perfect testing and training conditions. Urban encroachment and noise concerns are nonexistent problems, unlike at many other military installations.
Of the four extreme natural environments recognized as critical in the testing of military equipment, three fall under the management authority of Yuma Proving Ground. Realistic natural environment testing ensures that American military equipment performs as advertised, wherever deployed around the world. The proving ground manages military equipment and munitions testing at three locations: The Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) at Fort Greely, Alaska; the Tropic Regions Test Center (TRTC) operating in Panama, Honduras, Suriname, and Hawaii; and at the Yuma Test Center (YTC) located at Yuma Proving Ground. The common link between these test centers is "environmental testing," which makes the proving ground the Army's environmental test expert.
Yuma Proving Ground tests improvised explosive devices, commonly known as IEDs, the number-one killer of American service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles fly at the proving ground each year from the six airfields located at the proving ground, as do helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft conducting personnel and cargo parachute drops.
Many friendly foreign nations also visit the proving ground to conduct test programs.
The presence of the U.S. Army in Yuma goes back to 1850, when Fort Yuma was constructed on a hill overlooking the important Yuma crossing of the Colorado River. Soldiers at Fort Yuma maintained peace and protected the important Yuma crossing, which was used by thousands of travelers each year.
The Army constructed a second facility in 1865, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, to act as a supply base for Army posts throughout Arizona and parts of New Mexico. Supplies were delivered by riverboats and transported from the depot to military outposts by wagon. After Fort Yuma and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot closed in the 1880s, the Army did not return to Yuma on a permanent basis until World War II.
Yuma Proving Ground traces its history to Camp Laguna and the Army Corps of Engineers Yuma Test Branch, both activated in 1943. Located on the Colorado River, the Yuma Test Branch conducted testing on combat bridges, amphibious vehicles, and boats. Tens of thousands of mechanized and infantry soldiers were trained at Camp Laguna for duty at combat fronts throughout the world, from North Africa to the South Pacific. Abandoned campsites and tank trails can still be found on the proving ground.
Camp Laguna lasted only until the end of World War II. The Yuma Test Branch was closed in 1949 and reactivated two years later as the Yuma Test Station, under the operational control of the Sixth U.S. Army. In 1962, the station was named Yuma Proving Ground and reassigned to the U. S. Army Materiel Command as an important component of the Test and Evaluation Command. On July 26, 1973, it officially received its full name – U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. The following year it was designated as a Department of Defense Major Range and Test Facility Base.
Since its early days, Yuma Proving Ground has been a desert environmental test center for all types of military equipment and materiel. However, developmental and a variety of other types of testing of artillery systems and ammunition, aircraft armament and targeting systems, mobility equipment, and air delivery systems, not necessarily desert environmental-related, now comprise the bulk of the workload. A heavy investment in technology and a highly skilled soldier-civilian workforce makes the proving ground a significant social and economic component of the local community.
Yuma Test Center
YPG's YTC primary ranges
YTC offers the following for test, evaluation, and training purposes:
Ground weapons systems from small arms to long range artillery
Helicopter armament and target acquisition systems
A Small Unit Support Vehicle undergoes testing on CRTC's Mobility Test Track.
A robotic vehicle undergoes mobility testing on a bump course at CRTC.
Soldiers test a new modular body armor system in the extreme cold at CRTC.
^ abcYPG, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (official homepage), yuma.army.mil, last accessed 27 July 2019
^Yuma Proving Ground census blocks, Census Tract 206, La Paz County and Census Tract 105, Yuma County, Arizona United States Census Bureau
^CRTC U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center, atec.army.mil, last accessed 27 July 2019
^Tropic Regions Test Center; International Test and Evaluation Association; by Lance VanderZyl Director, Tropic Regions Test Center, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma, Arizona; dated 2008, last accessed 27 July 2019
^Piranhas swim at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, army.mil, by Mr. Mark Schauer (ATEC), dated 5 September 2017, last accessed 22 November 2018
^ abcdeYuma Proving Ground Continues Area's Army History, yuma.army.mil, last accessed 22 November 2018
^The Outpost, Volume 67, Number 2, Yuma Proving Ground, dated 22 January 2018, last accessed 23 June 2019
^Game-changing unmanned aircraft tested at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Army.mil, by Mark Schauer (ATEC), 3 June 2019, last accessed 24 July 2019