Thomas Laux, a senior Navy official, has certified the V-22 Osprey for Operational Testing and Evaluation, according to Inside Defense. The decision when to begin testing will be made by Marine Corps Col. Glenn Walters, commanding officer of the V-22 squadron. Testing is expected to begin in mid-March. But how thorough will this testing be?
In May 1, 2001, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the V-22 Osprey program. At that hearing, Norman Augustine, member of the V-22 Blue Ribbon panel (which was created to investigate the April 2000 crash which claimed the lives of 19 Marines) and former head of Lockheed Martin, said this about weapons systems testing:
“… over the years the test program for defense systems has gotten to be one where it's more a case of filling out a report card, that if you don't fill in this square properly, your program will be canceled, whereas in the past, test programs focused more on what can we break; how can we break it; and can we fix it? And can we break it safely in tests? And so I think today testing is much more cautious and less exhaustive, less probing than it used to be."
The V-22 is part of a trend being pushed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to procure and test weapons systems using “spiral development.” Rumsfeld calls this “an evolutionary approach to acquisition, seeking to deliver technology as it is available, rather than waiting for entire systems to be complete.” That’s Pentagon code for sending a weapon into battle before it’s thoroughly tested. Even DoD’s own advisory group, the Defense Science Board, has said that the worst time to test a weapon is in actual combat.
Augustine argued that testing has not only been timid, but that it has been narrowly defined. As weapons systems become more complex and expensive, you would think testing would become more rigorous, instead of "less probing."