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Reserve test squadron partners with active-duty Airmen

Posted 4/25/2008   Updated 4/25/2008 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lt. Jeff Liang
14th Test Squadron

4/25/2008 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Everyone has heard the horror stories: a request for a new system gets approved, but by the time the project is finished, the end product is nothing like the original design or it does not work because the system was fielded before getting all the bugs out. Then comes several years of different "fixes" to try and get the new system to work as originally intended. 

When it comes to Air Force Space Command, the stakes are higher than normal, because new systems are typically more expensive, more complex, and more difficult to fix after fielding. For example, while a radio or vehicle can be worked on after production, it is virtually impossible to replace faulty on-board hardware once a satellite has been launched. 

To ensure that new systems work right the first time and current systems continue to meet the needs of the user, the 17th Test Squadron and its Reserve counterpart, the 14th Test Squadron, were created. Together, these squadrons provide independent assessments of new systems and provide AFSPC senior leaders with fielding recommendations. 

The partnership between the 17th and 14th Test Squadrons is unique. Unlike many other Reserve units, which provide backup or surge capabilities for the regular Air Force, the 14th TS is a fully integrated partner in the testing process. 

Since the acquisition of highly complex systems can take several years, active-duty personnel may be reassigned before the completion of a project. On the other hand, Reservists provide critical continuity throughout the testing process, bringing extensive experience and expertise to test and evaluation. 

This year has been particularly busy for the testing community. They have completed upgrades to the Nuclear Detonation Detection System, worked with Combat SkySat, a rapidly deployable system designed to provide extended-range UHF and EHF communications to units in theater and tested a new command and control system for GPS ground stations. The community also supported strategic and theater missile warning system upgrades at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. 

Test results on these systems have validated new capabilities while also uncovering operational concerns. For example, the Nuclear Detonation Detection System now utilizes data from the Defense Support Program, providing better resolution of nuclear detonations. For Combat SkySat, deficiencies uncovered during testing drove extensive engineering upgrades to the payload and platform. These upgrades have made the system more valuable to warfighters through increased range and improved system life expectancy during operations. 

Airmen with the 17th and 14th Test Squadrons have deployed to several locations in support of these tests. 

"Their efforts ensure warfighters receive systems that meet their requirements," said 14th Test Squadron commander Lt. Col. Scott Jokerst. "In fact, one test had to be halted when testers identified several serious deficiencies that needed to be fixed."
Colonel Jokerst said if that particular system had not been tested, it could have had a significant impact on the warfighters' ability to accomplish their mission. 

"Rigorous operational testing ensured system capabilities matched the warfighters' expectations," he said. "Critical systems must work the first time, and the teamwork from the men and women of the 17th and 14th Test Squadrons provide commanders with the confidence to use those systems on a daily basis."

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