412th Test Wing integrates with 2nd Bomb Wing

United States Air Force Test Pilot School students from the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., visited Barksdale AFB, La., to study the B-52H Stratofortress.

The USAF TPS is where the Air Force’s top pilots, navigators and engineers learn how to conduct flight tests and generate the data needed to carry out test missions.

By integrating with Team Barksdale, the USAF TPS connected the operations community with the test community, as well as gave its students an opportunity to prove their test skills through a capstone course designed around different airframes.

“This experience gives the students a perspective of what the pilots have to deal with when they’re flying this aircraft so that when they’re developing tests for the bomber community, they know what kind of things they are asking the pilots to do,” said Col. Sebrina L. Pabon, USAF TPS commandant.

Senior Airman Ryan Braun and Airman 1st Class Eric Dearment, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, lead a B-52H Stratofortress as it is “cart started” at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., April 28, 2021. Updated with modern technology, the B-52 is capable of delivering the full complement of joint developed weapons and will continue that combat capability for decades to come. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Max Miller)

The students are required to evaluate multiple aircraft as part of their capstone, or final project. They report on the different aspects of the aircraft from flying and handling qualities to overall performance.

When the students assess the mighty B-52 and it’s influx of updated technology, they are able to better understand the aircraft’s combat capabilities that will continue to serve for decades to come.

“The B-52 has a tremendous amount of new programs coming within the next few years, everything from new engines, radar and weapons,” said Col. Matthew McDaniel, 2nd Operations Group commander. “This is a great opportunity for us to talk with the test community to understand each other a little bit more, give them an idea of what’s the B-52’s all about and then start tracking towards bringing all these new things online.”

Capt. Blake Morgan, United States Air Force Test Pilot School student, performs preflight inspections on the B-52H Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., April 28, 2021. USAF TPS students from the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., visited Barksdale to learn how to fly the B-52. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Max Miller)

The students created a list of aircraft they would like to observe for their capstone and those who chose the historic B-52, were granted a familiarization flight with the 2nd Operations Group.

“We hope to learn about how the operators are still using an older system,” said Capt. Tucker Tipton, 412th Test Wing test pilot student. “To see how it’s still effective and how they work around some of the new problems that some of the newer jets have solved either with software or new technology.”

For more than 60 years, B-52s have been part of the strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory including: gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.

“I think it’s good for them to see how we do our business,” McDaniel said. “Even more so I think it builds up excitement for how these young aviators and what they can do in the future.”

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