By Ms. Sandra Gibson (ATEC)August 11, 2016
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (August 11, 2016) -- Team members from the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command's, or ATEC, German Liaison Office and two subordinate organizations, the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, or AEC, and the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, or ATC, visited Germany to participate in an exchange of test and evaluation, or T&E, information with the German Ministry of Defense, or MOD, April 1-8.
The team, which included six AEC and three ATC delegates along with the German liaison officer, traveled to three Bundeswehr Technical Centers, commonly known as WTD, in Meppen, Trier, and Greding, and the Robotics Test Facility in Koblenz, to tour their test facilities.
The term 'Bundeswehr' refers to Germany's unified forces which include the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Germany's military is one of the largest in Europe and the second largest in the European Union.
The visit started with a tour of the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Weapons and Ammunitions, or WTD 91, in Meppen, April 1.
WTD 91 is the central T&E center for weapons and ammunitions used by the Bundeswehr and has the largest fully instrumented ground firing range in Western Europe, where ammunition of all calibers can be fired.
The WTD 91 visit gave both organizations an opportunity to learn how each country works and what kind of information and technology is available to be shared and distributed.
Mary Ellen Raymond, lead engineer for test and safety in AEC's Mounted Systems Evaluation Directorate, or MSED, gave briefings on ATEC's organizational structure and test capabilities and explained how the command fit into the larger acquisition process in the U.S.
ATEC's German liaison officer, Eberhard Kloeckner, discussed the status and explained the objective of the upcoming Test and Evaluation Program, or TEP, memorandum of agreement, or MOA, which is in the final stages of development and when signed, will promote defense T&E technology cooperation; allow for the reciprocal use of test facilities and ranges; and will facilitate the transfer and exchange of information, equipment, and resources between MOD and DOD.
According to Kloeckner, the ability to exchange technologies, share information, operate within all test facilities, and cooperate with the development of standards and methodology will enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of weapons systems for both the U.S. and Germany.
Kloeckner added that the TEP MOA will also reduce overall costs and risks for both nations through the sharing of information, including future defense requirements and current and future technological developments.
The ATEC and WTD 91 teams discussed how research and development, or R&D, and T&E worked within their respective organizations as well as the shared challenges both countries faced with contracting, limited resources, and time constraints. The Budeswehr, like the U.S. Army, is in a fiscally constrained environment where more has to be done with less.
At the end of the visit, the two organizations set down to discuss how to proceed with their new working relationship and formulated a plan to allow each country to build upon the strengths of the other. A list of action items were drafted to outline the cooperation efforts between Germany and America and their future partnership in the T&E of weapons systems and ammunitions.
Next up was the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Land-Based Vehicle Systems, Engineer and General Field Equipment, or WTD 41, in historic Trier, April 4-5. Trier is the oldest city in Germany, dating back to 16 BC and the reign of the Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar.
WTD 41 handles all of the Bundeswehr's land-based vehicle systems (wheeled, tracked, and special application vehicles) and their respective components, as well as engineer support and general field equipment.
The ATEC team were given tours of WTD 41's automotive test facilities and a firsthand look at how they conduct tests on their synthetic test courses using robotically-driven vehicles.
"Their testing is similar to ATEC's," said Brian J. Wise, ATC's test director for the Unmanned Vehicle Test Division. "They have a lot of similar automotive facilities and objectives for performance and reliability testing."
WTD 41 has numerous test tracks and terrains of various soil conditions and degrees of difficulty used to conduct mobility trials. The ATEC team had the opportunity to ride in several different German vehicles on various synthetic, secondary, and off-road test courses.
Gregory R. Brewer, acting chief for AEC's Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Division, explained that although both WTD 41 and ATEC share the same automotive capabilities, WTD 41 uses their robotic drivers capabilities far more than ATEC does.
"WTD 41 extensively uses robotically driven vehicles over their synthetic automotive test courses to limit driver exposure and to eliminate the possibility of test drivers avoiding the most severe obstacles on the test courses," Brewer said.
Brewer added that forming a partnership with WTD 41 would afford ATEC the opportunity to test their automotive capabilities in a different region of the world.
On April 6-7, the team traveled to Koblenz to visit the Robotics Test Facility, or RTF, and were given tours of the facility's state-of-the-art robotic test settings and demonstrations of robotically-driven and remote-controlled vehicles.
The two organizations discussed the need for international test standards and how to best interact with and support the various organizations currently working to construct overarching test methodology.
Additional discussions focused on the importance of the standardization of testing and the Interoperability Profiles, or IOPs, currently in place to help standardize robotic hardware and software interfaces, plus several of the interoperability experiments RTF has already participated in.
"I would love to see future collaboration and networking between ATC and WTD 41 on robotics test technology and the development of international test and operation procedure's on robotics test technology," said Kloeckner. "Having our subject matter experts working together, our organizations have the potential to become the lead government agency in robotics test technology."
Sandy Sheng, AEC's ATEC System Team chair, noted that one of the most significant and noticeable differences between the two countries is how their acquisition communities are organized. According to Sheng, the German acquisition community is co-located with the T&E community and shares various roles, while the American T&E community is spread out between various organizations.
"Germany's engineers and T&E are within one house, while T&E in the U.S. is separate from all the other acquisition processes," Sheng said. "Germany's entire acquisition process works together, which makes it easier to discover failure modes and quickly pinpoint a system's weak areas prior to testing."
Keith D. Adkins, Jr., a mechanical engineer in AEC's Integrated Suitability and Methodology Evaluation Directorate, was also impressed with Germany's acquisition system compared to the U.S. model.
"I was very impressed with how agile Germany's acquisition system is due to its smaller size," Adkins said. "Their acquisition system seemed to be a better collaboration and systems engineering style involvement from cradle to the fielding of a program."
The ATEC team spent their last day at the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Information Technology and Electronics, or WTD 81, in Greding, April 8 and were given demonstrations of the target simulation dome used to test infrared aircraft-tracking technology and the anechoic chamber, a room designed to completely absorb reflections of either sound or electromagnetic waves.
WTD 81 is also home to Europe's largest fully shielded hangar for the study of electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic effects, plus home to one of the world's largest dome structures (ATC has a similar, but larger dome). The dome houses a multispectral target and scenario simulation facility used for the realistic simulation of battlefield scenarios in the visual and infrared range.
The team returned home and on May 11 met with ATEC's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, to brief him on their visits to the technical centers and the RTF.
During the briefing, it was recommended that ATEC hold annual test technology workshops with the Bundeswehr technical centers, which Kloeckner said the MOD concurs with and Karbler supports.
"I was very excited when I got the 'thumbs up' from Maj. Gen. Karbler to support the establishment of annual test technology workshops between the U.S. and Germany," said Kloeckner. "Test technology workshops between the two countries will become the equivalent of the R&D workshops already in place between the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command and German R&D organizations."