|At Edwards, Preparing for Tomorrow Means Testing Today |
At Edwards, Preparing for Tomorrow Means Testing Today
By Ray Johnson, Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs.
Edwards Air Force Base, California -- January 16, 2001 (AFPN) -- In a 2000 white paper entitled "The Aerospace Force: Defending America in the 21st Century," it is noted that airmen have made great strides in controlling and exploiting airspace, whenever and wherever need be.
F-22 Raptor 4002 undergoing afterburner thrust tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. To ensure future airmen have weapons systems to counter any threat, next-generation aircraft, such as the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter, are tested at Edwards today.
Photo by Derk Blanset
Indeed, for five decades, from the Korean War to recent Balkan operations, the Air Force has ruled the skies with air-superiority fighters ranging from the F-86 Sabre to the F-15 Eagle.
For example, as former Secretary of Defense William Perry said, "In Desert Storm, we had air dominance ... that allowed our strike aircraft to devastate enemy air forces and allowed our ground forces to operate without any air interdiction. Desert Storm taught us something about air dominance. We had it, we like it, and we're going to keep it."
To keep it, though, Air Force officials say tomorrow's airmen will need a new air-dominant fighter: the F-22 Raptor. Furthermore, as noted in "The Aerospace Force" and "Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force," they will need proven systems available for other tasks, whether they operate in the air or in space.
Which is why Edwards continues its 50-year-old legacy of flight testing, molding next-generation aircraft today -- such as the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter, the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and, soon, the Airborne Laser System -- for tomorrow's warfighters. Plus, Edwards increasingly supports access-to-space programs that will enable the United States to firmly own the ultimate high ground.
"We will deliver combat capability -- the capacity to find, fix, assess, target and kill an enemy -- which is superior to that which we have today," said Maj. Gen. Dick Reynolds, commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center here.
Since 1947, the Air Force has evolved in and adapted to a changing world environment and to advancing technology. Accordingly, its strategic outlook, "Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century," has an obvious air and space thread running through it.
Moreover, as spelled out in the "The Aerospace Force" white paper, one of global engagement's six core competencies -- air and space superiority -- eventually will evolve into aerospace superiority.
For future blue-suit warriors, the challenge will be to establish an appropriate level of control in space, as past and present airmen have gained in the air. They will provide aerospace power -- the use of lethal and non-lethal means to achieve strategic, operational and tactical objectives.
To retain such control, one major concern exists: rogue nations obtaining ballistic missiles. Consequently, the Air Force is developing the Airborne Laser, which is designed to destroy missiles with directed energy. However, this isn't some Buck Rogers fantasy; the ABL platform, which uses a 747 airframe, is scheduled is to begin flight tests here next year.
When that occurs, practically every known aircraft will have been tested by AFFTC. But in an era of increasing competition for such "business," the Center and its 412th Test Wing is re-engineering to ensure Edwards remains the premier test and evaluation site, that it continues probing systems destined for future use by those who aren't even wearing the uniform yet.
"The world is changing and we have to keep pace," said Col. Perry Lamy, 412th TW commander.
What Lamy wants is an organizational work force that provides a valued outcome to future "customers."
He explained. "We say we're proud of the F-22 program, but we don't necessarily use the statement, 'We'll be ensuring clear skies for our ground troops for the next 25 years,' which will be the result of our proving the Raptor's capabilities."
This re-engineering push, Reynolds believes, will enable AFFTC to test more efficiently, more precisely, more completely and more affordably.
"Warfighters should see weapons systems that finish their developmental cycle with few defects, better performance and at a lower cost," the general said. "The relevance of test and evaluation -- today and tomorrow -- will be guaranteed."
Additionally, Reynolds sees partnerships with other organizations that will allow AFFTC to bring a fuller set of ground and flight test tools, and a larger skilled work force to the table.
The result: proven weapons systems delivered to tomorrow's warfighters.
- Edwards AFB, Calif.