February 17, 2017

General Schaefer updates community at Antelope Valley Board of Trade

Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, briefs guests at the recent Antelope Valley Board of Trade Luncheon about Edwards’ rich history and future projects including a new trainer, hypersonic aircraft and the importance of maintaining global power.

Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., felt right at home speaking to guests and members during an Antelope Valley Board of Trade luncheon at the Hellenic Center, where he briefed the latest and greatest updates on the Edwards Air Force Base mission.

“I love this group of people,” he said. “I love the energy in this room, but more importantly for me, I love all the support you give to the men and women who work day in and day out at Edwards Air Force Base.”

Representing about 12,000 people, Schaefer said the U.S. Air Force picked an accomplishment from Edwards to represent and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Air Force titled, “Breaking Barriers Since 1947.”

On Oct. 13, Edwards will celebrate the anniversary with a ceremony and activities at Edwards followed by a formal ball that evening.

Giving a brief history of the base, Schaefer said Edwards started out as a gunnery range in the 1930s, when Lt. Col. Hap Arnold was flying out of March AFB to drop bombs on the lakebed. Soon afterwards, the U.S. Army Air Corps was camping out on the lakebed until a larger presence grew to support World War II.

“In 1942 we established an airbase, actually, a very secret airbase we called North Base, where we tested the first jet engine.” Competing with Germany, the top-secret YP-59 was being developed and tested while other parts of the base were used for various missions.

Gen. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947; and in 1949 Muroc Air Base was renamed Edwards Air Force Base honoring Capt. Glen Edwards who died in a YB-49 crash along with five others.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the base continued to test jets to protect against threats from the Soviet Union. From the first Columbia Space Shuttle landing in 1981 to the first flight of the B-2 in 1989, Edwards has tested nearly every major fighter in the U.S. inventory, including the latest fighter, the F-35 built by Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus refueling tanker that will replace some of the 60-year-old KC 135s.

“Your Air Force, which is the best air force on the planet, hands down, has been birthed through Edwards Air Force Base,” said Schaefer. “That’s the importance of this community and what you support at Edwards.”

Serving all branches of the military and numerous allied countries, Schaefer said that at any given time eight to 10 different countries are represented on base and that pilots from 69 countries have graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, which was established at Edwards in 1951. “It’s not just an Air Force Base, it is an international asset.”

Although Northrop Grumman has not announced where the latest bomber, the B-21, will be tested, he is hoping it will be at Edwards. “We’re becoming a center of excellence for testing autonomy. Anything from the size of your hand all the way to large intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms like the Global Hawk.”

More than 72,000 U. S. Air Force pilots have been trained in Northrop Grumman’s T-38 Talon which was produced from 1961-1978. In December 2016 the Pentagon released details for trainer requirements for the new upcoming T-X program, a trainer that will replace the T-38 to train F-22 and F-35 pilots. The new trainer will be tested at Edwards. With new projects on the horizon including hypersonic aircraft, Schaefer said Edwards will be very busy for the next 50 years.

Approximately every 2.8 minutes Schaefer said that the Air Force is launching some type of aircraft around the world.

“It starts with a foundation based on our nuclear capabilities,” he explained, adding that the nation has not spoken publically about strategic deterrence in years, but that is about to change. “Make no doubt about it, our adversaries have been building up.”

With a reduction of 40 percent in personnel since 1991, Schafer said America must continue to grow in global reach, vigilance and power — and that the testing done at Edwards is monumental.

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