Test Connections

This year’s AUTOTESTCON conference theme is “Transforming Maintenance Through Advanced Test, Diagnosis and Prognosis.” With government budgets under the microscope, a broad range of military programs are being reviewed for cost reduction and necessity. These programs include not only new weapons systems but also the maintenance and support of these established programs and systems.

As detailed in a recent Frost & Sullivan report, military spending will not escape the budgetary battles in Washington (Figure 1). An overall decline is predicted in the Defense Department’s budget — reinforcing the need for better and more cost-effective maintenance, test methodologies and products. The focus for the military going forward is to “instill a culture of savings” at the Pentagon, saving at least $13.6 billion between 2012 and 2016 by cutting contractors, senior officials and staffs and eliminating $178 billion through other “efficiencies.” These savings do not include the additional defense budget cuts imposed as part of the recent debt ceiling agreement.

DOD Budget
Figure 1: DOD Budget, Frost and Sullivan, April 2011

The availability of COTS-based test products and systems can help address these budgetary challenges by offering not only cost-effective solutions but also solutions that address the need for advanced diagnostics and test at both the depot and field level.

For Geotest, our focus has been on developing and delivering cost-effective test solutions for depot, intermediate and flight line test. As detailed below, by leveraging our expertise in PXI systems and military electronics, we have successfully developed a product portfolio that can help the Defense Department cost-effectively transform its maintenance and support needs for both the flight line and the depot.

Flight line test

Geotest has successfully developed and fielded COTS PXI-based flight line testers that can withstand the harsh environmental requirements found in military field applications.

The applications for these field test sets include:

Testing of the Maverick missile system
A back-shop test set for the Alternate Mission Equipment (AME) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
A back-shop armament test set for the TA-50 and FA-50 aircraft
A portable test set for the C-130
A flight line tester for Apache armament

All five testers are based on an ultra-rugged COTS PXI platform (Figure 2) that has been successfully deployed since 2004. The MTS-207 platform has demonstrated the ability to operate reliably in any operational theater and has provided a cost-effective, COTS-based solution for both U.S. and foreign government entities.

COTS PXI Flight Line
Figure 2: COTS PXI Flight Line Test Platform

Geotest has also recently developed the MTS-3060 (Figure 3), a next generation armament circuits preload test set — also known as a “beercan” tester.

Unlike any current beercan tester, the MTS-3060 is the next-generation test set for armament systems and aircraft stations. With over 30 measurement channel channels (compared with one or two for other beercans), load channels, audio and video simulation, and MIL-STD-1760 support, the MTS-3060 offers a new level of capabilities and value for flight line testing.

Figure 3: MTS-3060

Depot level test

Beginning in the early 2000s, Geotest realized the benefits of PXI and subsequently has developed and deployed broad range of instrumentation and PXI-based test systems for depot and intermediate level test applications.

More recently, Geotest has teamed up with other military and aerospace test system suppliers to deliver test products and systems that substantially lower both the acquisition costs and operating costs for test and maintenance.

For example, the AUTOTESTCON 2011 paper by Geotest’s Mike Dewey and DME/Astronics’ Jim Ginn describes a next generation test system (Figure 4) that addresses the capabilities associated with the current VIPER/T and TETS platforms deployed by the U.S. Marine Corps while offering a downsized footprint with expanded capabilities and higher reliability. In addition, the system substantially reduces acquisition and life cycle costs. In particular, Geotest deployed its GX5960 digital subsystem (Figure 5) and software, replacing the VXI-based digital subsystem.

VIPER/T Platform
Figure 4: Downsized VIPER/T Platform (courtesy of DME / Astronics)

Figure 5: GX5960 Digital Subsystem

Some key benefits associated with this platform include:

Smaller system size and weight: Compared to the VIPER/T, the platform offers approximately 50 percent less size and weight.
Lower power dissipation: Compared to the current VIPER/T at idle, the platform offers a power reduction of greater than 50 percent, which translates into not only lower operational costs but also lower internal operating temperatures — and increased overall system reliability and uptime.
Lower acquisition and life cycle costs: For comparable instrument functions, PXI instrumentation can be 50 percent less than a VXI version of the same instrument. And for some high-end instruments such as digital cards, the per-channel cost for PXI can be 60 percent less than VXI.

The next few years will be challenging for Defense Department program budgets and personnel as they deal with the financial constraints and limitations associated with a deficit-cutting federal budget. However, by looking to COTS-based solutions coupled with increasing performance versus cost of commercial test products, the impact of future budget constraints can be mitigated. Geotest is committed to offering its Mil-Aero customers superior value and support for advanced maintenance, test and diagnosis.
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Geotest-Marvin Test Systems, Inc.
1770 Kettering
Irvine, CA 92614

Geotest - Marvin Test Systems, Inc.
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