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Ready. Set. Fly. Automated Test Equipment for Safe and Successful Flight Missions

Is our bird good? That's what military pilots want to ensure as they walk around their aircraft before taking off for their next mission, confirming that all flight instruments, armaments, navigation systems, radios, and computers are functioning properly.

Most avionics equipment is regularly checked using automated test equipment, but that test equipment needs to keep pace with the continuously evolving technology it supports. As some of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) older automatic test systems have become obsolete and unsupportable, CACI came up with solutions to upgrade, replace, and enhance those systems. With the ability to migrate test requirements from older, unsupportable systems to new commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) or custom-integrated test systems, CACI is helping to keep aircraft ready to fly on schedule, on budget, and on mission.

In the past, with limited depot maintenance funding, government test equipment was typically required to last for a minimum of 10-15 years. But many providers of the available solutions failed to deliver that level of lifecycle support. In addition, the government often relied on a self-managed spares pool to deal with unplanned failures. This approach did not always provide the best level of oversight, and engineers often found themselves cannibalizing other working systems when they couldn’t find the part they needed. When testers were down, shops were not operational, and this created a ripple effect that ultimately impacted the warfighters’ mission.

To address these issues and ensure accurate and up-to-date testing, CACI designed and developed the Common Bench-Top Automatic Test Set (CBATS). CBATS supports diagnostic and acceptance test requirements for a wide assortment of avionics systems, including instrumentation, flight computers, and other electronic assemblies, with application for both military and civilian land, air, and sea platforms. To date, CACI has delivered more than 130 of these common test systems to the U.S. Air Force.

The tester’s capabilities are completely automated, last for as long as the weapon systems they were built to support, and require little or no operator input, enabling more efficient and accurate testing. The test platform was based on the National Instruments (NI) PXI platform, a rugged PC-based platform for measurement and automation.

Furthermore, to increase tester uptime and longevity, CACI has collaborated with NI on a long-term sustainability plan to meet DoD needs now and through 2027. The customized Long Life Program includes same model repair/replace, detailed repair reports, and a single point of contact for all maintenance needs. The detailed repair reports allow customers to review system use and modify behavior that may be causing failures. CACI will also complete a technology refresh that will keep CBATS viable beyond 2027 to ensure the most up-to-date solutions are utilized.

This full lifecycle support has been extremely valuable in reducing obsolescence problems, and has saved our government considerable cost over time. Perhaps even better, it has increased uptime for critical avionics systems – added a level of support that gives our nation’s warfighters more trust and confidence as they carry out their missions.