An AUTOTESTCON panel discusses how the military's test equipment is out of date.
Now, with the CASS platform, there is a single standard test family, which has resulted in some success:
- 400 ATE systems
- a 25 percent reduction in billets required to maintain equipment
- $52M annual sustainment costs
The standardization results in a $3.8 billion reduction in total cost of ownership and $1.1 billion cost avoidance (attributed to the repair of 49,000 devices annually). The US Army is modeling these streamlining efforts with a CASS platform and is down to a mere double-digit number of ATE systems.
To further the urgency for aerospace ATE reform, the DoD has mandated that test capabilities be consolidated into more standardized systems. It's our role as industry leaders to support this mandate by consolidating multiple test systems into just one or two platforms that are accurate and reliable. From an industry perspective, we must embrace standardization. From a DoD perspective, we need to continue to fund common test platforms. With this cooperation, we will reduce total cost of ownership with standardization.
We know the big ideas -- on top of weighty budget constraints, we need to extend avionics testing, be able to reuse existing assets, streamline test platforms, and develop partnerships between commercial and military aerospace. But we've only just begun. Salisbury's data showed that the US Navy had reduced from 1,100 to 400 ATE systems, but they have a long way to go to reduce to 20 or even 5 systems.
So, what's next?
There's a Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program that encompasses eight partner nations and three US military services. Instead of just talking about standardizing test on a common platform, the JSF is an excellent opportunity for the test community to develop an industry standard. There's an armament test gap for older aircraft because as time went on, aircraft platforms had different test needs. Unique solutions were developed to cater to each need. The F-35 JSF also has an armament test gap due to the lack of armament test equipment in the program and inadequate levels of maintenance -- no operational (O) and intermediate (I) levels of maintenance for armament.
There is a looming challenge in the future as the JSF approaches operational test and evaluation that can be addressed today. The F-35 poses an opportunity to create standardized O- and I-levels of armament test platforms capable of adequate MIL-STD-1553 and -1760 testing for the next 60 years. Standardizing on a platform would provide better, faster, cheaper, and smaller ATE, and make the threat of unsustainable systems something of the past.
Do you develop or support military test equipment and systems? How are you coping with today's mandates?