Operational Testing of Air Force Systems Requires Several Improvements

PSAD-78-102: Published: Jun 2, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1978.

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An operational test and evaluation is an assessment of mission performance in a system's intended environment when operated, maintained, and supported by personnel with qualifications similar to those who will perform these functions in the field. The Air Force Test and Evaluation Center (AFTEC), established in 1974, is responsible for managing operational test and evaluation and providing an independent assessment on test results to the Secretary of the Air Force and Air Force Chief of Staff.

AFTEC has improved Air Force operational testing, and further improvements are being planned. However, there are several limitations in the testing programs. The operational testing conducted by AFTEC was generally not performed in an environment that the systems would encounter when deployed, and the systems were not always operated and maintained by personnel with qualifications of expected users. Also, AFTEC had little control over the resources necessary to conduct initial operational testing. The Air Force practice of combining initial operational test and evaluation programs, while it may save costs, makes it unlikely to achieve the very different objectives of the two types of testing. AFTEC evaluations of operational effectiveness have been limited because they were not based on the most current operational concept. A new policy to provide concepts that will serve as a "contract" between developers and users and will provide current criteria has been incorporated into Air Force regulations.

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