In 1988 when systems engineer Rick Rousseau first began working on the U.S. Navy’s Consolidated Automated Support System (CASS), the Hubble Space Telescope was put into operation and Rain Manreigned at the box office.
“From a technology standpoint, the 32-bit VMS operating system was the latest in computing power at the time. CASS was actually one of the first military systems to use a point-and-click interface,” recalls Rousseau. One of the original CASS architects, Rousseau has spent his career evolving the system over the past three decades.
CASS is an automated test system used by Sailors and Marines to repair aircraft electronic components at sea or shore-based facilities. When it was first fielded, CASS consolidated 30 test equipment systems into one resulting in $3.9 billion in cost avoidance for the Navy.
In January, Rousseau and his teammates joined the Navy to commemorate the delivery of the first electronic CASS station, dubbed eCASS. More than two decades old, the legacy CASS are becoming difficult to support and are technologically obsolete. Replacement with eCASS is critical to continuing optimal aircraft mission readiness and enabling more than $1 billion in cost avoidance each year.
“eCASS takes automated testing to the next level,” says Rousseau. “We brought in Sailors and Marines to provide feedback throughout system development, and we asked them where they see opportunities to make their jobs more efficient. Because of their feedback, eCASS has improved modularity for expansion and improved front access for maintainability.”
Efficiency is a major focus for the eCASS program, Rousseau explained, since the system supports a range of electronic equipment including more than 750 avionics components. The Navy expects to deploy eCASS on every aircraft carrier and at its Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Depots as its single automated test system.
Working directly with Sailors and Marines has been a high point for his career, says Rousseau, and one of the reasons he has stayed on the CASS program for 27 years.
“I always enjoyed the field support reviews where Sailors and Marines would give the engineering team demos of what was working well and problems they were encountering,” says Rousseau. “I realized that across the board, Sailors and Marines are interested in solving problems.”
Now that eCASS development is complete and the system is in its production phase, Rousseau says that he’s looking forward to seeing eCASS fielded all around the world in support of the naval aviation mission.
“Support equipment is what keeps aircraft flying,” says Rousseau. “It’s all about keeping the warfighter going. That’s why we’re here.”