Arnold Air Force Base hosts 2018 Air Force Test Center Strategic Offsite

Brig. Gen. Christopher Azzano, commander of the Air Force Test Center, second from right, receives an update on upcoming Service Life Extension Program projects at AEDC from TSS Capital Improvements Lead Engineer and SLEP Manager Kathleen Bajar, right. Also pictured are TSS Capital Improvements Technical Advisor Josh Meeks, left, AEDC Test Systems Sustainment Chief Col. John Tran. Azzano and other AFTC leadership visited Arnold Air Force Base in mid-November to take part in the 2018 AFTC Strategic Offsite, Azzano’s first offsite since assuming the role of AFTC commander in August.

The mission of the Air Force Test Center is to “conduct Developmental Test and Evaluation of air, space and cyber systems to provide timely, objective and accurate information to decision makers.”

Arnold Engineering Development Complex is expected to continue playing a vital role in this mission, said Brig. Gen. Christopher Azzano as he and other AFTC leadership descended upon the AEDC headquarters to not only shape the direction of the AFTC but also to meet with members of Team AEDC and get a firsthand look at the facilities that will help the AFTC attain its vision to be the tester of choice both now and in the future.

Arnold Air Force Base hosted the 2018 AFTC Strategic Offsite, Azzano’s first offsite since he took on the role of AFTC commander in August. The offsites, which occur annually, provide leadership across the AFTC the opportunity to gather for strategic planning, including discussions focused on the development of new technologies.

The offsite events are a great way for AFTC leadership to focus on the strategic direction of the organization as a whole, and adding this strategic direction focuses the efforts of the AFTC and enables its leaders to execute the mission of the Center more effectively, according to Col Scott Cain, AEDC Commander.

“It was significant for Arnold to host this event because so many strategic issues for the Air Force and how we support the National Defense Strategy are tied to Arnold and AEDC,” Cain said. “AEDC has a critical role in developing next-generation aerospace systems and for testing and evaluating systems in new mission areas, such as space, hypersonics and directed energy, all of which directly support the NDS.”

Lt. Col. David Garay, director of the Aeropropulsion Combined Test Force at Arnold Air Force Base, right, discusses some of the equipment found within the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility with Brig. Gen. Christopher Azzano, commander of the Air Force Test Center, center. Pictured at left is ASTF Asset Manager Jimmy Steele.

Azzano said one reason this year’s Strategic Planning Offsite was held at Arnold is that the Complex is “front and center” in the efforts of the Air Force to bolster national security.

“Arnold has been a foundation for capability development for decades,” he said. “Intelligent and emboldened adversaries are now challenging our nation’s technical superiority, specifically in hypersonic research and applications. Our nation’s leaders immediately turned toward the Air Force to preserve and extend our strategic technical advantage. The Air Force immediately turned toward Arnold.”
And what the AFTC hopes to accomplish with next-generation systems will start at Arnold, said Cain.

“We’re really where the aerospace systems that come to AFTC start. Getting test and evaluation right during ground test is an enabler for effective flight test,” he said.

Azzano said the AFTC has a “unique opportunity” to rapidly integrate the science developed at Arnold into new technology and systems, adding Arnold is “indispensable” in the development of new technologies and the incorporation of these technologies into next-generation systems.

Cain said discussions stemming from the Offsite will impact operations at Arnold along with the other wing-level organizations under the AFTC umbrella.

“AEDC’s mission will be enhanced by the Air Force Test Center’s strategic plan that results from this Offsite,” he said. “I can’t understate how important AEDC is to the Test Center, the Air Force and the Department of Defense.”

Cain described the Offsite as a “great success” while commending the efforts of those at Arnold who worked to ensure this. 

Brig. Gen. Christopher Azzano, commander of the Air Force Test Center, right, speaks with Lance Baxter, director of the AEDC Hypersonic Systems Combined Test Force, during a Nov. 16 tour of the Aerodynamic & Propulsion Test Unit.

“It’s rewarding to see Team AEDC put together a great event like this,” Cain said. “It’s also rewarding to see this amazing place showcased. There’s so much to be proud of at Arnold, and I love showing it off to our distinguished visitors.”

Azzano said he hoped that the Offsite would help the AFTC leadership to achieve better synergy by learning from each other’s ideas and building upon some of their own. Cain feels the Offsite was successful in this regard.

“In addition to being a great technique for developing strategic direction, an offsite is a team-building event,” Cain said. “We coordinate our priorities and individual visions for the Wings and the Test Center and, when coordinated, we can produce a better product for our acquisition customers.”

Cain added the success of the Offsite was evident, as AFTC shared compliments and came away from the event impressed by what they had observed and experienced at Arnold.

“They all commented on the hospitality both at Arnold and in the local community, and they all love the natural beauty at Arnold,” he said. “On the mission side, they were very impressed with the quality and motivation of our people, and they were amazed with our test facilities.”


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