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NE 21 puts AFOTEC at helm of joint, all-domain operational testing

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

Testers from the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center supported Northern Edge 21 focusing on conducting fighter aircraft test in a rapidly changing battlespace. AFOTEC’s Detachment 6 along with the F-35 U.S. Operational Test Team from Nellis AFB, Nev., joined with service members from the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines in the Pacific Air Forces led, joint training exercise.

“Northern Edge and exercises like it represent a unique opportunity to modernize operational testing,” said Col. Dan Javorsek, AFOTEC Detachment 6 Commander and UOTT Director. “These environments allow us to shift from the rigid requirements-driven mindset focused on what the aircraft was designed to do into one focused on what the aircraft can do.”

According to Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., “The Air Force must accelerate change to its fighter force structure to meet the threat posed by China and Russia…ensuring the Air Force can achieve air superiority and dominance over peer adversaries, as well as the capacity to meet world-wide demands in the 2030s and beyond.”

UOTT Deputy Director Marine LtCol David A. Merritt ensured team members readily adopted this call to action in support of General Brown’s vision. “The team kept the word ‘joint’ at the forefront of their minds – both during the exercise and upon returning home,” said Merritt. “Future battles will be a team effort between all services and allies including not only airpower but also assets from the sea, space, cyber, land, and even undersea domains. Northern Edge provided the opportunity to learn about other domains and how one domain’s capability gap may be filled with another domain’s strength.”

“Participation in exercises like Northern Edge place AFOTEC at the helm of joint, all-domain operational testing,” said Javorsek. “It is clear that the future of warfare is no longer restricted to airspace. Because of this, the mission of Detachment 6 – operational testing of 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft – has been greatly broadened in the last decade.”

“All-domain, integrated, operational testing with a specific focus on the F-35 platform is very important,” said Javorsek. “In a software defined combat system like the F-35, cyber defense is far more important than it was in legacy aircraft. However, the inclusion of foreign partners, like the United Kingdom and Australia, is similarly critical because it preserves the opportunity to adapt to changing threats that any single service or country could not do. These shifts toward all-domain operational test and toward greater integration of testing efforts between the United States and foreign partners is setting a new paradigm for the world of operational test and evaluation.”

“The engineers and analysts that comprise AFOTEC Detachment 6 and the UOTT are some of the finest in the Air Force with combined experience from Air Force research labs, program offices, and elite universities,” said Javorsek. “Their participation in Northern Edge 21 allowed them to put this expertise to use and push the boundaries of operational test and evaluation. With this experience, they can now steer the field toward joint, all-domain testing on the international scale,” he said. “This is especially important in the domain-agnostic Mosaic Warfare future of the 2030s where allied and joint all-domain forces will adaptively collaborate to generate unsolvable problems for our adversaries.”

Javorsek summarized, “While Northern Edge 21 concluded May 13, for AFOTEC Detachment 6 and the UOTT this is just the beginning of widening the aperture of operational test.”

AFOTEC’s mission is to inform the warfighter and acquisition through operational test. AFOTEC evaluates the capability of systems to meet Warfighter needs by planning, executing, and reporting independent operational assessments, tests, and evaluations. From concept development to system fielding, AFOTEC evaluates a system’s overall operational mission capability under realistic conditions. AFOTEC’s mission requires lock-step efforts with acquisition partners focused on shortening the combat capability delivery timeline.