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Five different aircraft Field Training Detachment (FTD) courses, 200+ hours of aircraft test set training, 15 unique Intermediate and Operational-Level test sets utilized; all for one USAF Armament troop. Makes sense, right? Each aircraft is unique, so logic would say “You can’t test an F-16 the same as an F-15E or F-22.” But why not? Is it possible to have a one-size-fits-all tester?

Although the aircraft may be different and unique, the munitions which they are designed to expend are universal; a JDAM is a JDAM is a JDAM. So, why is the list of armament test sets longer than the number of munitions available? And, if armament systems are designed under specific specs found in the Military Standards, specifically MIL-STD-1553 and MIL-STD-1760, which standardize the aircraft systems, why are the test sets which are designed to test these systems unique? Unfortunately, this is a question I’ve been seeking an answer to for years. I’ve heard many different rationales, but none have given technical specifications as the reasoning. I guess I’ll let you seek the answer to this question as I have. However, and in my opinion, the reality is that this doesn’t have to continue. Here’s why…

In 2011, Marvin Test Solutions introduced a common, universal handheld Operational-Level test set that is capable of testing all known armament systems, called “SmartCan”. Not only has this test set been employed on many different fighter aircraft around the world, but it has also been utilized to test armament systems on ground and air defense applications. SmartCan is a true common universal test set with multi-domain capabilities, addressing an armament test gap that exists across legacy 4th and 5th generation aircraft equipped with Smart weapon technology (MIL-STD-1760) and enabling support for any platform and any Smart or legacy armament system. If test sets like the SmartCan were fully fielded across varying aircraft, I guess I’d have the answer to my question.

Bottom line: commonality in test equipment has positive 2nd and 3rd order effects like enabling predictive maintenance across similar platforms and equipment, reduction in training requirements, reduction in life cycle cost, etc. propelling services into the 21st century of aircraft maintenance and sustainment.

One test set, one solution, unlimited uses.