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Ops group adapts technology to continue test missions

Northern Edge

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

A typical F-15E Strike Eagle munition-testing sortie changed drastically here recently in terms of how mission data moved across the Air Force Test Center enterprise. 

The 96th Test Wing’s personnel used distributed test operations or DTO to conduct the test May 26.  This means the test is simultaneously executed and monitored at multiple geographically separated locations.

The flight parameters and data of this laser Joint Direct Attack Munition test were routed in real-time from here to the mission control center at Edwards AFB, California, then back to a Boeing test team at a facility in Missouri. 

The Boeing team was able to see and determine test point success criteria from 700 miles away as the flight occurred. 

The test could not have occurred within an acceptable time period without this new expanded use of DTO in this way.

The typical scenario for a test like this would be to have the teams involved travel here monitor the mission, collect and evaluate the data.  Due to coronavirus travel restrictions and health concerns, the teams involved worked to create this DTO solution.

“DTO is not a new idea, but COVID-19 spurred us to relook at ways to utilize it,” said Col. Devin Traynor, the 96th Operations Group commander.  “We are thrilled with the team accomplishment and excited to expand this capability to other test missions here.”

The Defense Research and Engineering Network is responsible for moving the data to and from each location.  DREN is a high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency nationwide computer network that supports DOD’s test and evaluation communities.

Using the network, all monitored telemetry streams were clear with test teams having uninterrupted real-time voice communications throughout.

“It was as if my full test team was here, but when I looked left and right in the control room, only half of the individuals were present,” said 1st Lt. Jacob Hurst, test conductor with the 780th Test Squadron. 

To get to that point and to have success took a lot of pre-test coordination across multiple locations, communication links and the integrity and security of the data paths, according to Hurst.

After this initial success, 780th TS personnel plan to incorporate DTO into two additional tests of different programs.  DTO will be used on an upcoming massive ordnance penetrator weapon test.

Eglin’s test engineers will conduct the test from here as a B-2 releases the MOP at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. 

“We developed DTO years ago as a way to capitalize on our strengths around the test enterprise without duplicating efforts,” said Steven Dietzius, 96th Test Wing technical director.  “COVID drove us to be more innovative and adapt these tools and processes to continue to accomplish the mission.”