Dedicated professionals serving the warfighter

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rich Bohn
  • 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron commander
The 509th Bomb Wing is the tip of the B-2 spear. A vast infrastructure stands behind the 509th, working to make the B-2 more lethal, more stealthy, and more reliable. One of the final steps in that process is operational testing conducted by the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron.

The 72nd TES is one of six geographically separated units serving the 509th BW and Air Force Global Strike Command at Whiteman AFB. In fact, five of the six GSUs remain aligned with Air Combat Command. However, amidst the reorganization moving the 509th BW to AFGSC, one thing remains the same: 45 dedicated members of the B-2 Test team are committed to conducting independent test and evaluation of the B-2 bomber, ensuring the combat readiness of  the nation's greatest strategic deterrence and combat potential ... the B-2 weapon system.

The 72nd TES is one of nine test squadrons subordinate to the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, Nellis AFB, Nev., and reports to the 53rd Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. The 53rd Wing is charged with providing the test management and execution of operational testing for the Combat Air Force. More than 2,100 Airmen, spanning 21 CONUS locations, conduct testing on all weapons, electronic warfare systems and platforms in operationally relevant environments. While remaining an ACC unit, the 53rd Wing provides operational test services to AFGSC, ACC USAFE, PACAF and Air Force Special Operations Command.

The B-2 Test Team is composed of two units, 72nd TES and 53rd Test Management Group, Detachment 2. Together, the test team plans and executes tests, then reports the effectiveness, reliability and maintainability of the B-2 weapon system. By design, each member of the test team is hand-selected from their field of expertise, including engineers, analysts, maintenance personnel and pilots.

Choosing the best engineers, maintainers, mission planners, technicians and pilots helps ensure the warfighters in the 509th BW are given the most capable and maintainable hardware and software, coupled with the most effective and survivable tactics, techniques and operational procedures.

The key to successful mission execution, of course, is the people, and that is why quality personnel are so important and test team standards so stringent. Operational test planners and analysts on the B-2 Test Team are among the first to bridge the developmental and the operational worlds of the acquisition process. They determine what type and how much testing is required. These operators, analysts and engineers articulate test objectives and methods that can be proven statistically while, at the same time, executed from a resource constrained environment ... not an easy task.

The test mission planning cell translates the test objectives into an executable plan that is repeatable and flyable. Instrumentation technicians turn a combat ready B-2 into a test aircraft to capture multiple gigabytes of video, audio and aircraft multiplex bus data. Next, operational test pilots fly the test perhaps releasing weapons, testing new hardware/software or executing a new tactic.

Throughout the process, maintainers on the test team - representing avionics, DMS, weapons, ammo and LO, evaluate the reliability and maintainability of each software and hardware modification. They are the last line of defense to ensure an unreliable or unsuitable system is not fielded to the warfighter.

Fielding operational warfighting capability is paramount to the B-2 Test Team and directly contributes to accomplishing the Air Force mission ... to fly, fight and win ... in air, space and cyberspace. The key to accomplishing our test mission is the quality people making the day-to-day decisions on how to best plan and execute.