Training, testing and evaluation for the UK: QinetiQ LTPA

Harry Lye 16 December 2020 (Last Updated December 16th, 2020 12:18)

QinetiQ is providing a suite of training, testing and evaluation services to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) across 16 UK sites under the 25-year Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA). QinetiQ LTPA director Cathy O’Carroll spoke to Army Technology about the importance of the programme.

Training, testing and evaluation for the UK: QinetiQ LTPA
AJAX crew clearance trials at MOD Pendine. Image: QinetiQ LTPA.

Encompassing submarine escapes and Exercise Joint Warrior to testing handguns, the LTPA is a crucial part of the broader MOD test and evaluation (T&E) infrastructure across all domains of defence. Last year, QinetiQ signed a £1.3bn contract amendment with the MOD, under which a further £190m is being invested in modernising infrastructure across the 16 sites.

Discussing the importance of the test and evaluation offering, O’Carroll told Army Technology: “Test and evaluation is a critical enabler to being able to assess military capability. I think increasingly so as people want to understand what is the potential of new technologies and they [the Armed Forces] are very much able to experiment with technologies coming through now that are much more often in the commercial sector.”

“How do you assure that capability and commitment to service knowing that it’s going to perform as it should to do and it’s safe, and then also how do you turn that into the ability to be able to train with it.”

Investments funded under the amendment include noise and electromagnetic signature measurement capabilities to improve ships, submarines and aircrafts stealth potential, systems for the evaluation of electronic warfare and communications tools and a digital test backbone designed to streamline the assessment of data and allow simultaneous testing across multiple sites.

The sites managed under the LTPA include MOD Hebrides, Loch Fyne, BUTEC, Loch Goil, Rosneath, Barons Point, West Freugh, Eskmeals, Aberporth, Pendine, Shoeburyness, Boscombe Down, Pendine, Eastern Kings and Portland Bill.

Earlier this year, the QinetiQ LTPA team supported crew clearance trials of the British Army’s new AJAX vehicle at MOD Pendine, where British Army personnel operated the vehicles CT40mm cannon and 7.62mm chain gun aboard the armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) for the first time.

The QinetiQ team at Pendine provided targets, high-speed and standard video, a muzzle velocity radar and meteorological data to assess the firings for these trials.

Describing the scale of the LTPA offering, O’Caroll said: “We can test everything from subsystems right through to complex systems of systems. If you think about a piece of military equipment being developed, we can do everything in a missile system from the seeker to the warhead and the testing of those right through to the missile cell system itself, and then through to how that missile system integrates onto a platform whether that be a ship or an aircraft.”

O’Carroll added that in recent experience test and evaluation had skewed towards the top end of the capability, with more and more subsystem testing being delivered digitally at the modelling and simulation level. Overall, across the various sites, LTPA has a staff of over 1,000 experts in different fields offering the military over 170 test and evaluation capabilities.

Another critical delivery assisted by LTPA was 2019’s Exercise Formidable Shield, which saw eight NATO members come together at the MOD Hebrides Range which is operated by QinetiQ. Here the NATO members tested integrated air and missile defence capabilities through a series of live-fires and demonstrations.

O’Carroll explained that the ability to deliver test and evaluation not only for the UK but also for its NATO partners was another strength of the LTPA and one that increased its value. With allied militaries assuring their technology on British ranges, it adds another layer of cooperation between militaries but also helps the UK to understand what capabilities its partners can bring to bear.

O’Carroll highlighted how for the US Navy, the capabilities offered by LTPA’s testing and evaluation regime had become a good tool to assure its systems while en route to operations or as an add-on to exercise in and around UK waters.

For Formidable Shield, the LTPA team managed command and control, safety and logistics, acting as a central column to pull the exercise together. QinetiQ worked closely with the trans-Atlantic Air Traffic Control authorities to establish an air exclusion zone of over 1,000,000km2 around the event to enable the safe firing of missiles.

In other domains, QinetiQ’s LTPA team hosted a UK first mid-air satellite retrieval. This opportunity came about from an existing QinetiQ business relationship that turned into a demonstration viewed by Lockheed Martin, NASA and the European Space Agency at the MOD West Freugh Range.