Improving Operational Test Planning and Design

The operational testing of systems under development is a common industrial activity, in which the assessment of system performance is needed for a wide variety of intended environments.1 The statistical field of experimental design has provided the basis, through theoretical and applied advances over the last 80 years, for important improvements over direct but naive methods in test planning and test design. Methods now exist to guide the planning and design of efficient, informative tests for a wide variety of circumstances, constraints, and complications that can arise in actual use. As stated in Chapter 3, we recognize that there is a danger in drawing analogies between the problem of developing new products in industrial and other private- and public-sector areas and the development of new defense systems. Although defense systems have unique aspects, there are also substantial similarities in the operational testing of a defense system and the testing of a new industrial product. Given the very high stakes involved in the testing of defense systems that are candidates for full-rate production, it is extremely important that the officials in charge of designing and carrying out operational tests make use of the full range of techniques available so that operational tests are as informative as possible for the least cost possible.

The panel examined plans for the operational tests of several defense systems, including the Longbow Apache helicopter, the Common Missile Warning System, and the ATACMS/BAT system, as well as components of plans for


The term environment is used in a very broad sense to include, in addition to weather and climate, classes of users and types of application.

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