Library Fact Sheets
AIR FORCE TEST CENTER|
Printable Fact Sheet
The Air Force Flight Test Center was re-designated as the Air Force Test Center July 13, 2012, and is an essential cornerstone to the command's consolidation initiative from 12 centers to five.
The Air Force Test Center, headquartered at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., conducts developmental test and evaluation of air, space and cyber systems to provide timely, objective and accurate information to decision makers. The AFTC has oversight of work carried out at three primary locations across Air Force Materiel Command, including:
412th Test Wing - Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The 412th TW performs test and evaluation on aircraft and systems and influences weapon systems design to make sure they meet operational warfighting, combat support or training requirements. The 412th TW also operates the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.
Arnold Engineering and Development Complex - Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.
Arnold Engineering and Development Complex scientists and engineers perform ground tests, engineering analysis and technical evaluations for all the U.S. armed forces, other government agencies and commercial aerospace industry on aircraft, missiles and space systems at the conditions they will experience during a mission for research, system development and operational programs for AFMC's air and ground systems. Arnold is an essential cornerstone to the command's consolidation initiative from 12 centers to five.
96th Test Wing - Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
The 96th TW plans, directs and documents test and evaluation of armament, navigation, guidance systems, and command and control systems.
Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the 412th Test Wing, which is the host unit. The base also hosts tenant organizations, including the NASA-Armstrong Flight Research Center, Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate and the Air Force Operational and Test Evaluation Center's Detachment 5.
Edwards test forces have played a vital role in virtually every aircraft to enter the Air Force inventory since World War II.
The base itself covers just over 308,000 acres, or roughly 482 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 weapon 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, F-16, F-22, F-35, MQ-1, MQ-9, 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-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 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 is 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.
The F-22 Raptor is another high-visibility program. 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.
Another program undergoing testing is the RQ-4A Global Hawk Unmanned Combat Aerial System. This weapon system and surveillance system was already in the theater flying thousands of hours of combat missions for the war on terrorism, while still undergoing developmental test at Edwards. 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 and ground test. Edwards' focus today, and in the future, is summed up in the Air Force Test Center's motto: "Ad Inexplorata ...Toward the Unexplored."