A variety of sources of information on the reliability of a defense system under development are available at the different stages of system development. Data from developmental and operational tests and from field performance for systems with similar or identical components are typically available at the beginning of system development. There are also data from the developmental tests (contractor and government) of the system in question. Finally, there are often field use and training exercise data, as well as “data” from modeling and simulation.
Attempts to combine data from tests or field experience for a related system with those for a given system must be made with caution since large changes in reliability can result from what would ordinarily be considered relatively minor changes to a system, and even identical components can have importantly different impacts on system reliability when used in different systems. Data from field and training exercises must be carefully considered since field use and training exercises are not well-controlled experiments. Further, the utility of modeling and simulation results depends heavily on the validity of the models in question.
Even identical systems can have dramatically different reliabilities in developmental and operational testing as a result of the different conditions involved. In developmental testing, the system operators are typically fully acquainted with the system, the test conditions are carefully controlled, and the test is often at the component level (e.g., hardware-in-the-loop testing). On the other hand, operational testing involves using the full system in operational conditions as realistic as possible, with the actions of the participants relatively unscripted and the system being operated by personnel more typical of real use (with the anticipated amount of training). Clearly, these are distinctly different conditions of use.
On the other hand, the cost of operational testing (and the need for expeditious decision making) necessarily limits the number of operational test replications. Given the importance of assessing the reliability of defense systems in development, including how this assessment factors into the ultimate decision on whether to proceed to full-rate production, it is extremely important to base reliability assessments of defense systems in development on as much relevant information as possible. As a result, it has been suggested, especially of late, that the various sources of information be combined, if possible, to provide the best possible estimates of sys-