UOTT Completes Dedicated OT at Point Mugu Sea Test Range

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cameron Greer
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 6

U.S. Operational Test Team testers conducted dedicated operational test events over a body of water for the first time Nov. 15-16.

“Testing took place at Naval Air Station Point Mugu Sea Test Range, Calif., because it offers an operationally realistic environment for collecting data on how aircraft operate during naval operations,” said Marine LtCol Dave Merritt, UOTT Commanding Officer. “This testing represents a significant milestone for the team. UOTT analysts cited multiple instances of interoperability -- the interplay of fifth-generation and fourth-generation aircraft capabilities -- between the F-35 and other fourth-generation aircraft participating in the test.”

“This is a particularly important aspect of the test events because it cements the fact that we are right where we need to be in terms of data collection,” said 1st Lt Wade Mayo, UOTT lead analyst. “The aircraft is performing as we expected and has generated a considerable amount of data for the F-35 program as it relates to Navy and Marine Corps operations.”

“The UOTT is responsible for providing unbiased operational truth about the F-35 platform,” said Mayo. “While the team conducted events over ground testing ranges since February 2021, performance data over sea testing ranges had not been previously generated. The testing at Point Magu represents a deliberate effort to ensure the UOTT is exploring the capabilities of the platform in all operational theaters -- not just those that the Air Force operates in.”

“This responsibility requires the UOTT to collect large amounts of data from a variety of operational theaters as efficiently as possible,” said Louis Dube, UOTT Division Chief. “The UOTT is setting a new standard for data collection for the entire F-35 program. The F-35 enterprise is making great strides to iterate at a faster pace so that the U.S. Armed Forces and its allies can maintain air dominance over adversaries. We are actively exploring revolutionary ways of collecting and analyzing data that allows us to not only meet but also exceed those expectations.”

The UOTT is part of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center as well as the Navy’s Commander Operational Test & Evaluation Force. As a joint organization, the UOTT team is geographically separated with team members at Nellis AFB, Nev.; Edwards AFB, Calif.; Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.; and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif. The team also partners with the following flying squadrons: VX-9 at NAWS China Lake; VMX-1 at MCAS Yuma; 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis: and the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB.

“This combination of engineers, analysts, and pilots from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps is what makes the team so effective at generating data for such a large, joint program,” said Ashley Vincent, Navy test engineer and UOTT software lead.

Vincent is leading the remainder of the current 30R07 software block of F-35 testing. “The plan is to continue using PMSTR and other operationally realistic testing sites to expand the envelope for operational testing and continue collecting data from multiple platforms as they integrate into a single test event,” said Vincent. “With the growing complexity of these events also comes an increase in the complexity of data analysis. As the team builds more complex tests, we face the challenge of expanding our analysis capabilities to make the most of the vast amount of data collected.”

As analysis of these recent missions continues, the team is simultaneously planning for F-35 weapons testing events in December 2021 and January 2022.

“While performing mission analysis in tandem with mission execution presents its challenges, the team’s continued efforts place it at the forefront of the operational test enterprise,” said Dube. “The UOTT provides a unified voice for operational test squadrons when interacting with the program office and the developer. We synthesize inputs from the three services into a cohesive package, back it up with our own analysis and observations, and provide recommendations to decision makers to ensure the F-35 is as lethal as it can be.”