News | Oct. 4, 2022

Collaborate to Innovate: Grassroots Effort Fosters Integrated Test Ops

By Lt. Zach “FAb” Fisher

A grassroots movement—started at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland—is fostering integrated test operations across the Navy’s test enterprise.

Formed as a prototype for the Warfighter Integration Network (WIN), the “INTEROP” (a short-hand phrase for interoperability and co-op) cuts across organizational, disciplinary and administrative boundaries to facilitate routine integrated tactics and test events. It furthers WIN’s vision to be a human network that connects military operators across the Navy by linking groups, like the INTEROP, that are focused on collaboration, integrated evaluation and mission alignment. Project officers and engineers from Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (VX) 23, 20 and 1, and (HX) 21 are championing this effort with the support of personnel from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren.

The INTEROP breaks down communication barriers associated with typical organizational structures to eliminate information silos, limit redundant efforts and reduce interdisciplinary knowledge gaps. Since its inception in December 2021, the INTEROP has conducted nine events totaling 45 sorties across nine type-model-series aircraft from both operational test and developmental test squadrons. With a coalition nearing 200 people, the INTEROP facilitates sharing of best practices and has highlighted the importance of digital tools. Under NAWCAD’s Rapid Prototyping Experimentation and Demonstration’s (RPED) management, the group is using lessons and findings to develop a secure online collaboration system with Georgia Technical Research Institute through funding from NAWCAD Naval Innovative Science & Engineering. This tool will enable users from across the fleet and acquisition community to share lessons learned and fresh ideas, provide real-time updates and feedback, and send large files.

The benefits of this effort have been immediate and evident. The group has overcome human networking obstacles, fixed tactical data link issues (e.g. Link 16 crypto modernization and creating a persistent Link 16 network at NAS Patuxent River) and developed integration flight products. It has also found developmental system deficiencies and investigated new mission threads to complete kill chains with the newest developmental and operational systems. A standing group of liaisons from different capabilities and agencies regularly plan for the next event, set objectives, and integrate live, virtual and constructive environments. They focus on mission-relevant scenarios to add value to multiple program offices simultaneously, and will become a venue for RPED to introduce new technologies.

The INTEROP will continue to grow as it incorporates additional warfare centers, program office partners and test commands in multiple services to drive collaboration while creating a feedback loop from fleet operators to the acquisition community.