The Navy’s research and acquisition community conducts military readiness activities that involve testing. The Navy tests ships, aircraft, weapons, combat systems, sensors and related equipment, and conducts scientific research activities to achieve and maintain military readiness. The fleet identifies military readiness requirements to support its mission; the Navy's research and acquisition community, including the Navy's systems commands and associated scientific research organizations, provides Navy personnel with ships, aircraft, weapons, combat systems, sensors, and related equipment. The Navy’s research and acquisition community is responsible for researching, developing, testing, evaluating, acquiring, and delivering modern platforms and systems to the fleet—and supporting the systems throughout their life. The Navy’s research and acquisition community is responsible for furnishing high-quality platforms, systems, and support matched to the requirements and priorities of the fleet, while providing the necessary high return on investment to the American taxpayer.
The Navy’s research and acquisition community includes the following:
- The Naval Air Systems Command, which develops, acquires, delivers, and sustains aircraft and systems with proven capability and reliability to ensure Sailors achieve mission success,
- The Naval Sea Systems Command, which develops, acquires, delivers, and maintains surface ships, submarines, and weapon system platforms that provide the right capability to the Sailor,
- The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which provides the Sailor with knowledge superiority by developing, delivering, and maintaining effective, capable, and integrated command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, and surveillance systems,
- The Office of Naval Research, which plans, fosters, and encourages scientific research that promotes future naval seapower and enhances national security,
- The Naval Research Laboratory, which conducts a broad program of scientific research, technology, and advanced development to meet the complex technological challenges of today’s world.
The Navy’s research and acquisition community, in cooperation with private companies, designs, tests and builds components, systems, and platforms to address requirements identified by the fleet. Private companies are contracted to assist the Navy in acquiring the platform, system, or upgrade. The Navy’s research and acquisition community must test and evaluate the platform, system, or upgrade to validate whether it performs as expected and to determine whether it is operationally effective, suitable, survivable, and safe for its intended use by the fleet.
Testing performed by the Navy’s research and acquisition community can be categorized as scientific research testing, private contractor testing, developmental testing and operational testing (including lot acceptance testing), fleet training support, follow-on test and evaluation, and maintenance and repair testing. Fleet training events often offer the most suitable environment for testing a system because training events are designed to accurately replicate operational conditions. System tests, therefore, are often embedded in training events such that it would be difficult for an observer to differentiate the two activities.
- Scientific research testing. Navy testing organizations conduct scientific research to evaluate emerging threats or technology enhancement before development of a new system. As an example, testing might occur on a current weapon system to determine if a newly developed technology would improve system accuracy or enhance safety to personnel.
- Private contractor testing. Contractors are often required to conduct performance and specification tests prior to delivering a system or platform to the Navy. These tests may be conducted on a Navy range, in a Navy operating area, or seaward of ranges and operating areas; these tests are sometimes done in conjunction with fleet training activities.
- Developmental testing. A series of tests are conducted by specialized Navy units to evaluate a platform or system’s performance characteristics and to ensure that it meets all required specifications.
- Operational testing. Operations are conducted with the platform or system as it would be used by the fleet.
- Fleet training support. Systems still under development may be integrated on ships or aircraft for testing. If training has not been developed for use of a particular system, the Navy’s systems commands may support the fleet by providing training on the operation, maintenance, and repair of the system during developmental testing activities.
- Follow-on test and evaluation. A follow-on test and evaluation phase occurs when a platform receives a new system, after a significant upgrade to an existing system, or when the system failed to meet contractual performance specifications during previous testing. Tests similar to those conducted during the developmental testing or operational testing phase are conducted again, as needed, to ensure that the modified or new system meets performance requirements and does not conflict with existing platform systems and subsystems.
- Maintenance and repair testing. Following periodic maintenance, overhaul, modernization, or repair of systems, testing of the systems may be required to assess performance. These testing activities may be conducted at shipyards or Navy piers.
Preparatory checks of a platform or system-to-be-tested are often made prior to actual testing to ensure the platform or system is operating properly. This preparatory check is similar to checking the wipers and brakes on a car before taking a trip. These checks are done to ensure everything is operating properly before expending the often-considerable resources involved in conducting a full-scale test. For example, the MH-60 helicopter program often conducts a functional check of its dipping sonar system near shore before conducting a more rigorous test of the sonar system farther offshore. Pierside platform and systems checks are conducted during Navy repair and construction activities and are essential to ensure safe operation of the platform or system at sea.
The Navy uses a number of different testing methods, including computer simulation and analysis, throughout the development of platforms and systems. Although simulation is a key component in the development of platforms and systems, it cannot provide information on how a platform or system will perform or whether it will be able to meet performance and other specification requirements in the environment in which it is intended to operate without comparison to actual performance data. For this reason, platforms and systems must undergo at-sea testing at some point in the development process. Thus, like the fleet, the research and acquisition community requires access to large, relatively unrestricted ocean operating areas, multiple strike targets, and unique range attributes to support its testing requirements. Navy platforms and systems must be tested and evaluated within the broadest range of operating conditions available (e.g., bathymetry, topography, geography) because Navy personnel must be capable of performing missions within the wide range of conditions that exist worldwide. Furthermore, Navy personnel must be assured that platforms and systems will meet performance specifications in the real-world environment in which they will be operated.