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Through the DoD Automatic Test Systems Executive Directorate, DoD Automatic Test Systems Master Plan 2017, the OSD AT&L Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense established four goals for all services. However, the genesis of these goals didn’t begin in 2017; they were derived from congressional direction beginning in 1992 and 1993! Then, in 1994, “OSD (A&T) released policy on ATS acquisitions which stated that DoD components shall satisfy all acquisition needs for ATE hardware and software by using designated ATS families.”

So then, why is it now in 2021, 27 years since the original policy and 4 years since the Master Plan, that we still see so many test sets across some services, many of which only perform a single test on a single piece of equipment? WHY? This is a question that has frustrated me for years!

“ATS families” are simply test sets which fulfill multiple roles. For example, a single test-set solution for multiple platforms, or a single test-set solution fulfilling all roles on a platform. Over the course of 13 years the DoD and Services would create the previous mentioned Master Plan with the following four goals:

1st Reduce the Total Cost of Ownership of DoD ATS

2nd Interoperable ATS

3rd Reduce Logistics Footprint

4th Improve the Quality of Test While Reducing Repair Cycle Times

In many ways, rather than fixing the problem, the problem has only grown and become so large it’s created a budget burden which actually prevents implementation of the very solutions which could lessen the Service ATE budget problems and create savings necessary for future modernization. And, to remain relevant and lethal in modern warfare, modernization within support equipment is needed as much as the platforms they support. So, what are the costs of ATE?

Each test set has a total life cycle cost; this cost is comprised of many factors, some realized and some unrealized (meaning some cost real money, and for some the cost isn’t seen). These factors include initial purchase cost of the test sets, manning for the program office to support the test sets, annual repair budget, annual technical data updates, annual modification of fielded test sets, field manning to sustain (includes inspections, maintenance, calibration, and repair), field storage requirements (cases, storage space, security, etc.), shipment cost (to/from Depot, command directed and in support of deployments/TDYs), modification integration and field use training.

The above list can consume millions of dollars annually per test set. Now multiply this by the number of test sets each unit is required to maintain. A single Service, who’s not utilizing technology to comply with the DoD policy, could be consuming billions of dollars annually of their Service budget! This results in an extremely difficult battle for these Services to justify and obtain needed modern test equipment to comply with the policy.

However – there is good news! Private industry has done the heavy lifting for the Services by creating test solutions which meet and exceed the DoD policy. Capability which once required giant rack test sets, is now packed into handheld-sized test sets. Specifically, Marvin Test Solutions, who offers test products focused on what maintainers want and need, has created the SmartCan™. I’m not going to revisit all the capabilities of the SmartCan here, because I’ve previously written about them in past blog posts. However, the one capability which must be “foot stomped” is a test set’s commonality.

SmartCan is truly one of the first, worldwide deployed, COMMON test set solutions. This test set is utilized today on seven unique aerial platforms and one ground application, and is currently being integrated onto two additional aerial platforms and one ground application. In addition, SmartCan has undergone some modifications resulting in a modified SmartCan version to be renamed “FlyCan”. The FlyCan, which will continuously monitor the system throughout the flight, is in the final test phases of being utilized as an airborne flight recorder AND test set - meeting the needs of many with one device!

Due to advancements in technology, as I’ve discussed above, test set commonality is no longer an issue. This advancement has opened unique doors for the Marvin Test team as seen in the FlyCan, as well as future capabilities like predictive maintenance/trend analysis with the addition of AI software or wireless cloud connectivity. The days of needing additional test sets or strap-on-modular for new or unique test needs is gone. Test sets, which use to be stored in buildings, can now be found in a single Pelican™ case.

So, end this frustrating situation! Direct funds into solutions your maintainers need today vs. trying to keep outdated solutions of the past afloat.