Test Connections - March 2019

Cybersecure Flightline Test in Your Hand

Increasing Complexity
As weapon systems become increasingly complex, ensuring the performance, security and safe operation of these mission-critical systems at the flightline demands test capabilities and cybersecurity features that are lacking in the O-Level test sets currently in use.

An example of this gap in security and capability is the ACPTS or  “beercan” tester.

History of the "Beercan"
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) took delivery of its first F-16 aircraft which featured "state of the art" technology including sophisticated avionics, munitions, and armament systems over 40 years ago. This sophisticated armament resulted in the USAF equipping maintainers with a new generation of test equipment at the flightline (O-Level) including the Armament Circuits Pre-Load Test Set (ACPTS).

The ACPTS was cylindrical, and resembled a beer can, quickly earning the nickname "beercan" among maintainers. The F-16 ACPTS was a very simple device with a single measurement channel to check for stray voltage and missing firing signals. To provide adequate flightline armament test capability, this piece of test equipment was combined with large box testers, such as the 75501 tester (Figure 1), making the flightline near the F-16 cluttered and complicated.

Legacy F-16 Flightline Test Equipment

Figure 1: Legacy F-16 Flightline Test Equipment

Over the years, F-16 aircraft have received numerous upgrades to their avionics and armament systems including "Smart" (Mil-STD-1553 and -1760) weapons technology. While legacy “beercans” and large box testers can perform some tests on legacy armament systems, they fall short when it comes to newer Smart weapon systems.  The use of obsolete or inadequate flightline test equipment to support the advanced Smart armament and munitions employed today presents an unacceptable level of mission risk due to:

1. Readiness uncertainty – while the testing of the aircraft with a beercan usually results in an FMC (Full Mission-Capable) aircraft, the reality can be far from that due to the inability of the beercans to detect armament system digital faults.

2. Costly maintenance – the inability of the beercans to fully test the aircraft necessitates the use of additional O-Level testers. Thses large box O-Level testers takes excessive amounts of time to perform the tests the beercans cannot accomplish.  Additionally, there is no commonality as each aircraft has its own beercan and larger O-Level testers, significantly increasing the footprint and cost of sustainment.

3. Cybersecurity vulnerability – legacy O-Level test equipment still in use today is not cybersecure, and cannot be upgraded to current security standards.

The SmartCan™ Universal O-Level Test Set – Flightline Test in Your Hand
Realizing that current handheld O-Level armament test sets lack comprehensive test capabilities as well as the cybersecurity features required to protect these complex and mission-critical systems, Marvin Test Solutions developed a handheld, battery-powered test solution that securely supports all armament systems on all aircraft to deliver true FMC aircraft to the warfighter: the SmartCan™.  Importantly, the SmartCan performs these test in a fraction of the time needed by the big box test sets.

The SmartCan is capable of supporting all legacy and Smart armament systems on all current and future fighters, bombers, helicopters, and UAS. The handheld SmartCan weighs under 4 lb, yet packs over 30 measurement channels, electronic loads, multiple communications interfaces (MIL-STD-1553, MIL-STD-1760, MMSI, Ethernet, CAN Bus, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485), video and audio signal generators, and innovative test language that further reduces development and integration costs while providing exceptional protection against current and emerging cybersecurity threats.

The SmartCan supports the testing of virtually any Smart weapon interface including JDAM and AIM-120. Importantly, a single SmartCan can be loaded to support multiple types of aircraft and blocks, reducing complexity and test footprint during deployment. One customer replaced six flightline test sets used on their F-16 and F-15 aircraft with the SmartCan, significantly reducing their logistics footprint and benefiting from standardization and common training for all aircraft armament specialists.

Flightline Test

Figure 2: SmartCan™ Universal O-Level Armament Tester
Streamlines Flightline Test

No Compromise: Combining Ease-of-Use with Advanced Security Features
The SmartCan  delivers significant and advanced features that make test easy at the flightline (Figure 2), as well as unrivaled cybersecurity to ensure program and data integrity.

Smart Test Capabilities and Ease-of-Use Features:
  • Built-in test and self-test
  • Weapon simulation
  • Automated calibration
  • Full compatibility with legacy beercan testers

State of the Art Cybersecurity Features
The SmartCan addresses cybersecurity risks on both the hardware and software levels, providing comprehensive protection against malicious code creation, unauthorized access, and reverse-engineering:

  • Removable SD card for secure data transfer and software updates. In the event that the SmartCan is used on classified platforms, the SD card may be removed to declassify the unit as no data is saved on the SmartCan itself.
  • Proprietary operating system reduces vulnerability to hackers.
  • Test programs can be created/maintained with Marvin Test Solutions’ ATEasy® test development and test executive software suite, which includes protections against malicious code creation, unauthorized access, and reverse-engineering.
  • Encryption capabilities for ATEasy source files, DLLs and executables. All programs are encrypted and can only be uploaded to the SmartCan if they match the cyber-key of the customer. This prevents unauthorized use or modifications to any test procedures.

The SmartCan is already deployed in 10 countries and proven effective on F-16 (multiple blocks), F-15, TA-50, FA-50, F-5, Hawk, and UAS, with support for      A-10, F-18, F-22, and F-35 already available. Additionally, it is being used by the USAF in unique weapons emulation applications at the Test Pilot School.

The ability to save time, test more, troubleshoot better, and simplify the test process plays a significant role in maintaining fleet readiness within a limited budget. Offering unmatched test capabilities with unrivaled cybersecurity features, the SmartCan can provide support for both current and future generation weapon systems.

The SmartCan is part of Marvin Test Solutions’ comprehensive suite of armament and munitions test sets. Visit our website to learn more about why the SmartCan is the choice of advanced militaries worldwide, and explore our KnowledgeBase for informative white papers and articles on the subject of armament test, including: