Test & Evaluation into the future: challenges and opportunities
The current pace of putting Military Capability into service is a challenge. Clearly, the operational backdrop of Ukraine and the evolving threat picture show that we need to be able to deliver capability much more quickly to the frontline - and also need to be able to incrementally increase that capability. Moving from sequential to parallel T&E would help to remove any bottlenecks, and increase the overall pace.
However, the ambition to overhaul some of T&E’s core ways of working requires a proactive approach to establishing credibility. T&E’s standards are, quite rightly, extremely high, and the burden of assurance is rightly a heavy one - strong evidence will be required to make a case for new approaches.
Looking ahead at the opportunities for T&E, we can consider these in three key areas - strategy, tactics and technology.
The concept of ‘frontline T&E’ presents an opportunity. For example, in the UK, the Royal Navy (RN) is changing its operational strategy - going forward, we will see more of the RN’s ships and capabilities deployed overseas for years at a time. This will change how we think about assurance. For example, ships that are away for years at a time can’t rely solely on the fixed ranges that we’ve depended upon for decades, and so we need to look at increasing the use of deployable ranges.
And, as strategy changes, tactics change too. Changes to capability, doctrine and the geopolitical situation necessitate rapid tactical changes. If you’re training last-generation tactics, you might as well not train at all. We must ensure that we’re using the training feedback loop to quickly develop tactics, not in a cycle of years or decades, but over months and weeks. Of course, underpinning this is assuring that the defence systems work as anticipated if used against new threats or in new ways which will drive the need for an agile T&E capability that can be employed where and when needed.
Technology is, of course, both a disruptive factor and an opportunity for T&E. We must consider how to test and evaluate new technologies, in order to ensure that we’re able to exploit them. For example, open architectures, uncrewed and autonomous systems and new, complex weapons. But how will we evaluate them? For example, how do you test and evaluate a semi-submersible, extra-large uncrewed vessel, compared with a Dreadnought class submarine? Robust scalable methods must be developed and validated that reflect the risks and unknowns that need to be addressed.
In conclusion, perhaps ironically, new technology will also help to drive the testing and evaluating of new technologies in to the future. Synthetic environments, for example, allow us to test and evaluate more quickly across a wider range of operational conditions and with less costs than in the physical world. As such, striking the balance between physical and digital T&E is increasingly important. We recognise that this will be an evolving picture, but as we look forward, we must seek to determine the optimum mix between physical and synthetic T&E - as there are still many criteria that synthetic environments cannot meet.