NATO’S FT3: A RESOURCE FOR AIR FORCE T&E EFFORTS
By Samantha Block
U.S. Air Force members working test and evaluation (T&E) efforts sometimes struggle to find relevant historical data or lessons learned, thereby missing opportunities for efficiencies in test planning and conduct. Accordingly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) Flight Test Technical Team (FT3) is a resource available to members in the T&E community. The following is an overview of FT3’s origins, FT3’s ongoing efforts, and applicability to T&E efforts.
ORIGIN OF THE FT3
Established in 1949, NATO provides an important intergovernmental military alliance between (currently) 29 North American and European countries. One component of NATO is its Science and Technology Organization (STO) (shown in Figure 1), whose mission is to help position the S&T investments of NATO and its member nations as a strategic enabler of the knowledge and technology advantage for the defense and security posture of NATO nations and partner nations. The STO does this by:
- Conducting and promoting S&T activities that augment and leverage the capabilities and programs of the alliance, of the NATO nations and partner nations, in support of NATO’s objectives.
- Contributing to NATO’s ability to enable and influence security- and defense-related capability development and threat mitigation in NATO nations and partner nations, in accordance with NATO policies.
- Supporting decision-making in the NATO nations and NATO.
Furthermore, the STO’s Collaboration Support Office (CSO) (also shown in Figure 1) supports the collaborative business model of STO. NATO nations and partner nations contribute their national resources to define, conduct, and promote cooperative research and information exchange. CSO can host virtual meetings as well as set up a Science Connect Workspace for teams whose members can share NATO UNCLASSIFIED material and documents.
Within the STO is the FT3. The mission of the team—which is chaired by the Director of the U.S. Air Force Test Center’s Engineering Directorate and has representatives from the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, and Sweden—is to:
- Share information through the publication of AGARDographs on flight test technology derived from best practices to support the development of concepts and systems critical to NATO’s technological and operational needs.
- Enable advancements in flight test technologies to be discussed in open forums within the NATO community by identifying and distributing flight test training opportunities, symposia, short courses, lecture series, workshops, etc.
- Serve as the focal point for flight test subjects and issues for the Science Concepts and Integration panel, while ensuring vitality and continuity of the network of flight test experts within the NATO community.
- Coordinate activities with the Air Vehicle Technology (AVT) panel.
FT3’S ONGOING EFFORTS
Since its first meeting in Amsterdam in November 1968, the FT3, in its various forms, has met semiannually to discuss the management of its deliverables and to develop ideas for future work. Meetings have also typically included a relevant technical tour in the area. The team’s primary activities include:
- Disseminating information and lessons learned related to flight testing and instrumentation derived from best practices to support the development of concepts and systems critical to NATO’s technological and operational superiority.
- Enabling advancements in flight test technologies to be discussed in open forum within the NATO community by identifying and distributing flight test educational opportunities and proposing and facilitating symposia, short courses, workshops, and lecture series.
- Serving as the focal point for flight test subjects and issues with the Systems Concepts and Integration (SCI) Panel while ensuring the vitality and continuity of the network of flight test experts within the NATO community.
The FT3 met in September 2019 for its 103rd semi-annual business review meeting at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Technical discussions were held on flight test and related T&E issues in support of NATO operational capability on unmanned aerial systems, electronic warfare, helicopter slug-load, supersonic flight, departure resistance testing, and developmental and operational test issues.
Current FT3 publications in work include “Reduced Friction Runway Surface Flight Testing” (SCI-306, AG-300-34), “Flight Test Techniques for the Assessment of Fixed-Wing Aircraft Handling Qualities” (SCI-303, AG-300-33), “Ground and Flight Test Methods Used to Assure Aeroelastic Structural Stability of Fixed Wing Aircraft” (SCI-314, AG-300-35), “Flight Test of Helmet Mounted Displays” (SCI-315, AG-300-36), “Application of IRIG 106 Data Recorder Standards” (SCI-266, AG-160-23), and “Flight Test Safety Management” (SCI-236, AG-300-V32). These publications, as well as others previously published, are unclassified and accessible by all U.S. Air Force personnel.
FT3’S APPLICABILITY AND AVAILABILITY FOR T&E EFFORTS
Over its 50+ years of service, the FT3 has published 56 AGARDographs on flight testing and instrumentation, held symposia and workshops, conducted exploratory teams, and provided lectures to NATO members and partners. Areas of flight test support that are available to the Air Force T&E community include:
- Consultancy (to both internal external parties; of these, the most significant has been a mission to the Turkish Air Force Technology and Weapons System Development Directorate at U.S. Eskisehir to advise on aspects of Flight Test Planning and Management and Flight Test Instrumentation)..
- Networking and Links.
- Contacts (the team has an established network spanning the international flight test community).
- Government Flight Test Centers.
- Industry Flight Test Centers.
- Professional Institutions.
Any T&E team wanting to review work accomplished by the FT3 or connect to the team can do so by contacting the author or by visiting https://www.nato.int https://www.sto.nato.int and https://www.sto.nato.int/Pages/systemsconecpts-and-integration-ft3.aspx.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ms. Samantha Block currently serves in the Engineering Directorate of the Air Force Test Center, where she leads early tester involvement activities and is an Air Force subject-matter expert for all programs on Live Fire Test and Evaluation (LFT&E) oversight. Previously, she served as the team lead for the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) LFT&E team at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Helicopter Program Office. She is also a former active duty Air Force contracting officer. Ms. Block is a graduate of Michigan Technological University and was commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.