AFOTEC maintains mission readiness through operational testing

  • Published
  • By Cameron S. Hunt
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Detachment 4, tests and evaluates new space, cyberspace, missile and missile defense capabilities. Their mission is to test weapons systems in operationally realistic environments. The goal is to inform warfighters of the lessons learned and influence national resource decisions based on the test results. Det 4 has been assigned to operationally test and provide feedback for over 30 separate weapons systems.

“AFOTEC Det 4 is one of the coolest organizations I’ve ever worked for; our comradery and esprit de corps here are so high,” said Lt. Col. Tyler Frander, AFOTEC Det 4, director of operations. “We operationally test Air Force Space Command’s largest space systems and inform the warfighter on how well they work. We’re like the Consumer Reports for the Air Force.”

AFOTEC employs more than 600 military and civilian personnel, headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. AFOTEC is comprised of five detachment units in five different states: Edwards AFB, California, Det 1 and 5, Eglin AFB, Florida, Det 2, Peterson AFB, Colorado, Det 4, and Nellis AFB, Nevada, Det 6, said 1st Lt. Randi Winther, AFOTEC Det 4, space and cyber test operations division officer.

Our Peterson Detachment has three operating locations under its command, located at Buckley AFB, Colorado, Hill AFB, Utah, and Los Angeles AFB, California, Winther said.

“Each test team is broken into five main areas: test director, analyst, cyber analyst, effectiveness and suitability. These test teams provide a robust, challenging operational assessment for our mission-critical systems. In an effort to determine the overall effectiveness of our current and newly proposed weapon systems,” Winther said. “The results of AFOTEC’s tests are normally conducted on prototype and pre-production models and systems, and the data plays an important role in Air Force and Department of Defense acquisition decisions.”

During the test, AFOTEC personnel are positioned next to the operators for the duration of the test, which lasts approximately 30-45 consecutive days. This close-proximity assessment technique enables test teams to thoroughly observe the mission needs of the operators in real time and determine how a current or new system responds to the challenge, said Winther.

“Most systems tested are replacing some type of legacy system,” Frander said. “Once the AFOTEC test team completes their assessment, they will compile a report and forward it to major command leadership which determines if the new system will replace the legacy system.”

The Det 4 Space-Based Infrared Systems test team won AFOTEC’s test team of the year for 2017, beating out over 89 other test teams for the Air Force Association Howard W. Leaf test team of the year award at the AFOTEC headquarters level. All programs are unique in terms of what capabilities are being provided to the warfighter, therefore all are equally important to accomplishing the mission, Winther said.

“In addition to the typical acquisition programs, AFOTEC has recently been tasked in supporting Agile 804 programs,” said Col. Joe White Jr., AFOTEC, Det 4 commander. “This type of testing requires more succinct scenarios and on a more frequent basis, which provides the warfighter practical capabilities at a much faster rate. Benjamin Franklin said ‘If you do tomorrow what you did today, you will get tomorrow what you got today.’ This is just another way AFOTEC Det 4 is supporting our Airmen on the battlefield.”