Mission Update: Edwards progresses with advanced technology

Innovation plays a significant role at Edwards Air Force Base when engineering teams, design teams and test teams work on technological advances intended to ensure the nation’s safety.

“Innovation is part of our identity as a Base,” said Giancarlo Casem, a spokesman at Edwards Public Affairs office.

In 2019 an Innovation Campaign kicked off at Edwards and it has been updated this year with an Innovation Wall on base as a source of inspiration for creative ideas that improve daily operations.

Areas of concentration include the following:

• Leadership, seeking ways to best develop people for the future;
• Culture, what can be done to move from an atmosphere of risk aversion to an environment that embraces urgency and innovation;
• Infrastructure, how to improve the facilities that best supports mission needs;
• Communication, looks at ways to better deliver information internally at the Base and externally to the public;
• Agility Transformation, methods that improve and streamline processes which meet the needs of a National Defense Strategy.

The concept offers airmen and civilians at the Base an opportunity for input so they can express their ideas and enhance the workplace.

With that focus in mind, Brig. General E. John “Dragon” Teichert, former commander of the 412th Test Wing, encouraged the workforce at Edwards to get involved, step up and submit their ideas through a “Feed the Dragon” effort.

Teichert, who left his post as commander for deployment to Iraq, led a tour of the base on Jan. 15, where he discussed the next step in the Innovation Campaign. He began the tour at the Test Wing headquarters building, showing his “Manifesto for Innovation” video and introducing the Culture Wall, which displays thought-provoking illustrations containing messages to inspire airmen and civilians at Edwards – sayings like “Don’t hide behind rules and regulations” or “No is not an option.”

“For the last 116 days we’ve gone through our innovative blitz,” Teichert said. “That was a period to develop a culture to help us till and fertilize the ground of innovation and now we’re taking the next step, which is activating to get ideas going and energize our force so any airman, at any time, can feel comfortable raising their hand with ideas of ways to do things better.”

Flyover demonstrates aerial refueling formation
Given the emphasis toward forward thinking that exists at Edwards, for the first time in the base’s history a small group of aircraft comprised of a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 418th Flight Test Squadron, accompanied by three F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 416th Flight Test Squadron, orchestrated a flyover at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco on Jan. 19 for the National Football Conference Championship game between the 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

“We are honored to represent our amazing American military members and their families,” said Teichert as he prepared for deployment to Iraq. “By participating (that) Sunday, Team Edwards (was) proud to demonstrate, in yet another way, what it means to be The Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe.

The 412th Test Wing, headquartered at Edwards, plans, conducts, analyzes and reports on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapons systems and software performed at the Base.

On Jan. 19, 2020, a KC-135 Stratotanker and three F-16 Fighting Falcons, all from Edwards Air Force Base, flew over Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., before the NFC championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Levi Stadium is home to the 49ers. The tanker was from the 418th Flight Test Squadron, and the F-16s from the 416th FLTS. San Francisco went on to beat the Packers, 37-20. (Air Force photograph)

“A significant portion of the general population doesn’t understand Aerial Refueling, or even know that it exists,” said Maj. Jacob Lambach of the 418th Flight Test Squadron. “Demonstrating a refueling formation, even if the aircraft aren’t actually touching, will hopefully help all the spectators, both at the stadium and the National TV audience, understand a capability of the U.S. Air Force that greatly increases our combat effectiveness and lethality.”

Lambach was one of the KC-135 pilots during the flyover.

Maj. Stephen Jude of the 416th Flight Test Squadron commanded an F-16 craft over the stadium that day.

Jude said, “This flyover was only made possible by the hard work and dedication of thousands of aviation professionals.” The flyover was dedicated to them, he added.

B-21 Raider, T-7A Red Hawk tests to begin in 2020
Testing of the B-21 Raider bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk, a trainer aircraft, has been scheduled for 2020.

In a manner that reflects the “what’s-old-is-new” philosophy, decision-makers reactivated the 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards in preparation of the planning, testing, analyzing and reporting on all facets of the flight and ground testing for the B-21 Raider, a highly survivable, next generation bomber with the ability to penetrate modern air defenses and hold any target at risk globally.

The Raider is a long-range strike bomber able to conduct a range of critical missions. This aircraft will play an important role in enabling the Air Force to function in a future high-end threat environment with the capability to launch from the continental United States and deliver strikes anywhere in the world.

The ability to divest old capabilities and build new is paramount and modernization remains a priority for the Air Force in its mission of defending against existing and emerging threats, according to Air Force officials.

Northrop Grumman in Melbourne, Fla., designed and developed the B-21 Raider. The testing program at Edwards will provide timely, objective and accurate information to decision-makers.

The first flight of the Raider will go from Palmdale to Edwards, said Matthew Donovan, Acting Secretary of the Air Force, when he spoke at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 16, 2019 in National Harbor, Md.

More than 200 Air Force Test Pilot School alumni, their families and friends attend the TPS 75th Anniversary dinner at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 21, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Jenna Romo

That carries on a tradition of excellence established July 17, 1989 when the B-2 Spirit, the world’s first stealth bomber, flew from Northrop Grumman’s production facility at Plant 42 to Edwards for developmental testing, Donovan said.

The newly advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk, Donovan announced at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference.

Donovan was joined on stage by an original Tuskegee Airman, Col. Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Several members of the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen attended the conference.

The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen, Donovan told the crowd.

The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, provides the capability to prepare pilots for 5th generation fighters, including high-G environments, information/sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.

“The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft,” Donovan said. It offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities, he noted.

The aircraft features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way more suited to real world demands. The single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than dual engines of the T38C Talon, which it is replacing.

Team Edwards honored with Collier Trophy
Edwards received the highest aviation award last year — the Collier Trophy, Casem said.

That was for testing the F-35A, a collaborative effort between the Air Force, the F-35 Joint Program Office, NASA, Lockheed Martin and the Defense Safety Oversight Council.

Team members received the 2018 Robert J. Collier Trophy during a presentation ceremony on June 13, 2019 in Washington for the development and testing of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.

This award has been bestowed for more than a century to individuals and/or teams that accomplished the greatest achievements in aeronautics or astronautics in the United States.

Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, former 461st Flight Test Squadron commander and F-35 Integrated Test Force director, said, “We saw a need to implement Auto CAS on F-16s years ago. The team came together, proved the technology, advocated it, and got it into F-16s.”

The 412th Test Wing’s new commander, Col. Matthew Higer, assumes command of the Wing by receiving the unit guidon from Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano, Air Force Test Center Commander, during the Wing’s Change of Command Ceremony at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 5, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)
And – The Test Wing gets a new leader

Col. Matthew Higer assumed command of the 412th Test Wing at a Feb. 5, 2020, change of command ceremony. Higer replaced Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert.

“It is also an honor to be selected to command the wing that has the sacred American mission of teaching test fundamentals, like world-class risk management and adaptive test solutions to the next generation of test professionals,” Col. Matthew Higer said. “To the members of the 412th Test Wing … it is truly an honor to be your commander. Our nation has never needed us more, and I am beyond description excited to be your biggest fan and supporter.”

Higer is a former Air Force Test Pilot School Commandant at Edwards. He assumes command of a Wing of more than 8,000 personnel in the developmental test and evaluation of the F-35, KC-46, F-22, F-16, B-1, B-2, B-52, C-17, C-130, KC-135, Global Hawk, joint remotely piloted aircraft and emerging technologies. Additionally, Col. Higer is now the installation commander responsible for operating the base and supporting more than 11,000 active duty, reserve, and civil service and defense contractors at Edwards, the second largest base in the Air Force.

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