AIR FORCE TEST CENTER|
Printable Fact Sheet
Edwards Air Force Base is home to the Air Force Test Center and the 412th Test Wing. The base also hosts tenant organizations, including the NASA-Dryden Flight Research Center, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve units, Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate and the Air Force Operational and Test Evaluation Center's Detachment 5.
The Test Center's mission is to "conduct and support research, development, test and evaluation of aerospace systems from concept to combat." Edwards test forces have played a vital role in virtually every aircraft to enter the Air Force inventory since World War II.
Our workforce includes roughly 12,800 men and women focused on accomplishing our mission, and they are clearly our most important resource! There are roughly 3,500 military members, 3,100 government civil servants, 3,200 private contractors, and 3,000 NASA, AFRL and other tenant unit members.
The base itself covers 301,000 acres, or roughly 470 square miles. As a matter of perspective, a city the size of Los Angeles could fit within the base boundaries with miles to spare. In fact, it is the second largest Air Force base and boasts the country's longest runway.
Edwards is located in the Mojave Desert, adjacent to the largest dry lakebed in North America--Roger's Dry Lakebed. The clay-surface lakebed dimensions are roughly 12 miles long by five miles wide. Because of the over 68 miles of runways on the lakebed and ideal weather conditions, Edwards is truly a national asset.
The base has 19 runways--three are paved and the other 16 are located on the lakebed. The longest paved runway is 15,000 feet long by 300 feet wide and is three feet thick. The longest of the lakebed runways is seven-and-a-half miles long. Because of the forgiving length and width, this vast array of landing surfaces can be a huge benefit in safely recovering test aircraft or aircraft returning with in-flight emergencies.
For the last 60 years, Edwards has seen testing of every major weapons system in the AF arsenal plus many of those belonging to our sister services. Among the many Edwards' historic events was the flight of the Bell X-1, flown by then Capt. Chuck Yeager, on Oct. 14, 1947 when he first broke the sound barrier. Another historic flight was in the North American X-15, flown by then Maj. Pete Knight. This flight, flown in 1966, still stands as the fastest manned-airplane flight to date at Mach 6.72.
The incredible array of test and test support aircraft currently assigned to Edwards include: B-1, B-2, B-52, C-5, C-12, C-17, C-130, C-130J, KC-135, CV-22, F-16,
F-22, F-117, F-35, MQ-1, MQ-9, YAL-1 and RQ-4. These aircraft fly test missions that evaluate everything from airframe structures and propulsion to avionics and electronic warfare all with the aim of ensuring these weapons systems are suitable for their intended combat missions.
For example, one of the higher visibility programs currently testing at Edwards is the F-22 Raptor. The F-22's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities and allows the full realization of operational concepts that are vital to the 21st century Air Force. The F-22 is a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force that is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances, to counter and defeat threats that attempt to deny access to our forces.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter test program is the next high visibility program. The F-35 has been designed with an emphasis on air-to-ground attack, including an extended range capability and a large internal weapons bay. This program will be the largest and most complex ever undertaken, with six years of planned testing across multiple military services, three aircraft versions and 11,000 flight test hours.
Another program undergoing testing is the RQ-4A Global Hawk Unmanned Combat Aerial System. Although still conducting developmental tests, this weapon system is already in the combat theater; having flown more than 2,200 combat hours and more than 100 missions for the war on terrorism. The Global Hawk provides Air Force and joint battlefield commanders near-real-time, high-resolution intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery.
Edwards AFB enjoys an exceptionally rich history, and continues to be the center of excellence for flight test. Edwards' focus today, and in the future, is summed up in the Air Force Test Center's motto: "Ad Inexplorata ...Toward the Unexplored."