Experts provide guidance on testing Air Force weapons systems

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The success of American war-fighters ranging from pilots to special operation forces depends on the reliability of the systems they use to engage the enemy.

Failures or deficiencies in those systems can have real consequences that impact combat effectiveness.

Before every new system - including, but not limited to aircraft - is fielded, it is run through a series of tests and evaluations, to ensure it meets system specifications, including capability, reliability and safety performance requirements.

Experts at the Center Test Authority located within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Acquisition Excellence Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, are tasked with supporting the acquisition professionals that plan for and conduct testing of Air Force systems.

"We have two primary responsibilities," said Dr. Beverley Gable, AFLCMC's senior functional chief for Test & Evaluation. "We advise test and program managers as well as engineers in the AFLCMC program offices on policy and implementation of that policy. In addition we review their acquisition planning and T&E strategy."

The CTA also supports T&E workforce management, recruiting and development for AFLCMC in functional areas such as engineering, program management and logistics.

When AFLCMC organizations such as the Agile Combat Support Directorate or Mobility Directorate decide to test an aircraft, their test managers are advised by the CTA on how to plan for and conduct the test and evaluation effort within the guidance and instructions that govern testing. The CTA also advises on technical issues that come up during the tests.

"The Center Test Authority is a very valuable resource and force multiplier," said Mike Keltos, chief developmental tester for AFLCMC's, Mobility Directorate's Advanced Pilot Training Program. "During the planning stages of various training aircraft programs, including new aircraft such as T-X and modifications to legacy aircraft, the CTA provided us with expert advice and interpretation of Department of Defense and Air Force-level policy used to formulate test strategies best suited to the individual programs." 

When the URT-44 personnel locator beacons -  a radio that emits a signal that rescue crews use to locate downed aviators when they have to eject or bailout in flight during peacetime operations - began having failures during ejections and had to be replaced, the CTA served on a team that helped ensure that the replacement beacons would be reliable.

"When the beacons were having operational issues, we were able to advise the Aircrew Performance Branch of the ACS Directorate, and helped them focus their test and evaluation strategy on evaluating the reliability of the replacement beacon to best assess and predict system performance," said Alex Cardenas, CTA Test Manager.

The CTA also assisted with testing of a training system known as Joint Terminal Control Training and Rehearsal System for Air Force combat air controllers commonly called Combat Control Teams.

CCTs preform an important role for the Air Force and Department of Defense. They often operate in hostile environments, directing aircraft and alerting pilots of the location of enemy forces on the ground. These professionals go through intensive training in order to be able to perform their jobs.

"This training system helps simulate the environment that combat controllers would normally operate in, along with all of the equipment they would normally use in different scenarios," said Orlando Grino, CTA test manager. "Basically it's to train them so they can develop the coordination skills to work with different forces, ground units, and air assets. My role was strictly as a test coordinator and I was responsible for making sure that we were looking at the right things, staying focused, and capturing all the necessary information so that the decision makers could make an informed decision as to whether this particular simulator met their requirements."

Gable said the CTA is a resource for program managers and program executive officers.

"We have a strong reputation," said Gable. "They recognize our expertise and that we are trying to help them meet current T&E directives and get the job done within existing program budget and schedule frameworks."