The 412th Test Wing resumed flight operations at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., April 1, following a brief adjustment to modify procedures after the DOD-wide Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie announcement last week.
During HPCON C at Edwards, which was declared March 26 to combat the spread of COVID-19, access to the base has been mostly limited to mission essential personnel.
This week the 411th Flight Test Squadron, 461st Flight Test Squadron, and the 418th Flight Test Squadron, all part of the 412th Operations Group and the 412th Test Wing, are scheduled to fly various sorties in support of test missions. Other mission partner organizations are also executing flight operations from Edwards this week.
During resumed operations, Team Edwards sorties included flights on the B-52, C-17, and testing of the F-22 with an F-16 target for a developmental test; while mission partners at the Joint Operational Test Team flew the F-35 for operational tests.
The 412th Test Wing Commander, Col. Matthew Higer, and 412th Test Wing Technical Advisor, Daniel Osburn, both received a first-hand “walk-through” of the expanded sanitization procedures being implemented at the Ridley Mission Control Center on Edwards, March 31. This facility is a vital part of many flight operations at Edwards, as Ridley Mission Control Center serves as a data nexus hub between flight crews in the air and flight test engineers on the ground. Real-time flight data from aircraft can be sent directly to engineers at Ridley, where they monitor multiple facets of a test flight.
The new sanitization procedures are designed to mitigate the health risk to Team Edwards personnel as the Wing ramps up strategically important test and evaluation flight operations.
“My top priority, as the Test Center commander, is to protect and preserve our talented and devoted workforce,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano, commander, Air Force Test Center headquartered at Edwards. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for all of us as we balance the health of our people with our critical role in National defense. I am committed to maintaining unit readiness across all of our test organizations, including Edwards AFB, Eglin AFB, Fla., and the Arnold Engineering Development Complex, Tenn. The test enterprise will continue to sharpen our nation’s sword during this challenging time,” said Azzano.
Despite reduced manning levels, Edwards AFB continues to perform its wartime mission each and every day – before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic – delivering future readiness to the warfighter. “Team Edwards has made amazing and agile progress the last few days at getting the installation postured toward our ‘new-normal’ test-and-evaluation steady-state in the long fight against COVID-19,” said Higer. “Our National Defense Strategy requirement to compete, deter, and win against peer competitors – in all warfighting domains – does not go into standby or otherwise pause while we are effectively in combat operations against COVID-19.”