Support and test equipment includes all equipment required to operate and maintain a weapon system. This includes associated multiuse end items, ground handling and maintenance equipment, tools, metrology and calibration equipment, communications resources, test equipment, and automatic test equipment, with diagnostic software. It also requires the support for the support and test equipment.
One of the challenges in the development of modern weapon systems is the fielding of systems which are supportable in a cost-effective manner. Adequate support and test equipment is a key ingredient to successful deployment of a weapon system. Traditionally, support and test equipment was frequently the last item to consider in the acquisition process and was given only limited attention.
Modern weapon systems have reached levels of complexity that demand concurrent planning of both prime equipment and support and test equipment development. The planning for development of support and test equipment early in the system development cycle will provide project payoffs including a significant reduction in life cycle cost and gains in system readiness.
Key decisions are essential early in the development cycle to define testability of the system. Support and test equipment concepts and design requirements (based on use studies) are essential to the development of the overall weapon system support strategy. This strategy takes into consideration the employment scenarios; the on-board testing/ repair technologies/off-equipment repair concepts needed to support the employment scenarios; and the technical risk (design volatility potential) for the various parts of the weapon system. Tradeoff analyses between BIT, BITE, and test equipment will not only reduce system downtime in the least costly way, but also are required to define precisely the system and support and test equipment requirements. In addition, early planning can help to eliminate costly and complex interfaces by making available practical early design techniques that can optimize the testability of a circuit, component, or system without reducing performance.