The 412th Test Wing plans, conducts, analyzes, and reports on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapons systems, software and components as well as modeling and simulation for the USAF. There are three core components for this mission: flying operations, maintenance, and engineering.
Through a maintenance group of over 2,000 people and an operations group of 3,000, the test wing maintains and flies an average of 90 aircraft with upwards of 30 different aircraft designs and performs over 7,400 missions (over 1,900 test missions) on an annual basis.
The Test Pilot School, also part of the test wing, is where the Air Force's top pilots, navigators and engineers learn how to conduct flight tests and generate the data needed to carry out test missions. Human lives and millions of dollars depend upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown. The comprehensive curriculum of Test Pilot School is fundamental to the success of flight test and evaluation.
The Engineering Division and the Electronic Warfare Division provide the central components in the conduct of the Test and Evaluation mission. They provide the tools, talent and equipment for the core disciplines of aircraft structures, propulsion, avionics and electronic warfare evaluation of the latest weapon system technologies. They are also host to the core facilities that enable flight and ground test with the Range Division, Benefield Anechoic Facility, Integrated Flight Avionics Systems Test Facility and the Air Force Electronic Warfare Evaluation Simulator.
Rounding out the test wing are the Project and Resource Management Divisions who provide the foundation for the successful program management of test missions.
The Test Program
Flying units under the Operations Group are called flight test squadrons and the squadron commander also usually fulfills the role of Combined Test Force, or CTF, Director.
The CTF is an organizational construct that brings together the government developmental test and evaluation personnel (i.e., military personnel and government civilians and support contractors), the operational testers or representatives of the warfighters who will eventually employ the aerospace system in combat, and the contractors who develop and test the aerospace system.
Members of the CTF formulate the test program, develop the criteria for flight test missions, execute flight test missions, analyze data from the test flights and report on the results. The CTF military personnel, government civilians, and contractors all work together as a team. This concept enables a cheaper, faster, and more effective test program and produces a more effective aerospace system for the warfighter.
Risk is an accepted component of flight testing, but because of Edwards' benchmark flight test safety processes, the center maintains a stellar safety record. The AFTC's mission focuses on Developmental Test and Evaluation which is the process used to identify risks that need to be reduced or eliminated before fielding new systems. Once DT&E is accomplished, aircraft systems transition to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOT&E where the aircraft is evaluated for combat effectiveness and suitability for an intended mission.
The 412th Test Wing is the host wing for Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. - the 2nd largest base in the Air Force. The wing oversees base day-to-day operations and provides support for over 10,000 military, federal civilian and contract personnel assigned to a 470 square mile installation. Approximately 1500 Test Wing Desert Warriors directly support the test and evaluation mission of the Air Force Test Center and the 412th Test Wing.
The wing is responsible for operating the base, including the infrastructure, communication systems, security, fire protection, transportation, supply, finance, contracting, legal services, personnel and manpower support, housing, education, chapel and quality of life programs on a 301,000-acre base in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the second largest base in the U.S. Air Force.
The 412th TW is host to over 100,000 visitors annually and supports over 25,000 dependents, retirees, and veterans. Major units within the wing include the 412th Mission Support and the 412th Medical Groups, as well the 412th Civil Engineer/Transportation Directorate, 412th Security Forces Squadron and the Services and Comptroller Divisions. Staff agencies include chaplain services, base comptroller, inspector general, manpower and organization, and military equal opportunity and public affairs.
The Edwards flightline is the "Center of the Aeronautical Universe." This is where the future of the nation's aerospace defense system can be viewed.
There are nine flight test squadrons with as many as 20 aircraft assigned to each. The aircraft are grouped by mission representing global power (fighters and bombers); global reach (transport); and global vigilance (unmanned and airborne laser).