Technical leaders with the 412th Test Wing and 96th Test Wing met with Arnold Engineering Development Complex leadership over three days to view the ground test capabilities at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.
The 412th TW is based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and the 96th TW is based at Eglin AFB, Fla.
These two test wings, along with AEDC, make up the Air Force Test Center.
As part of their stop at the engine test facilities, Lt. Col. Ryne Roady, commander of the AEDC 717th Test Squadron, said the group got the opportunity to see inside the C-2 test cell.
“This tour gave them a firsthand account of how we perform engine testing here at AEDC,” Roady said. “In general, the whole visit was about improving the coordination between Arnold and the other two test wings on our current and future programs.
“Many of the test projects we work on will eventually transition into flight test programs, and the earlier that Edwards Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base engineers can become familiar with the programs and data that we are working to collect, the better the future flight test programs will execute.”
Roady added that the three wings are successfully sharing data, but the process could also be strengthened.
“We currently are doing a great job of integrating on a program-by-program basis using personal connections to help facilitate data sharing, but we’d like to establish a more institutional and enduring process for how we share data and expertise to become more efficient and effective testers,” he said.
Lt. Col. James Gresham, commander of the AEDC 716th Test Squadron, mentioned his team also had interactions with the guests.
“Our engineers provided the 412th Test Wing and 96th Test Wing visitors with an overview of recent wind tunnel test projects and the analysis relevant to our flight test partners,” Gresham said. “They toured Tunnel 16T [the 16-foot transonic wind tunnel] and the Propulsion Wind Tunnel model installation building in the 716th mission area. We also jointly toured Tunnel D, to highlight the collaboration between AEDC and the Air Force Research Laboratory.”
With the members of the AEDC 718th Test Squadron, the visitors were able to see space test facilities that are used for high temperature materials testing and testing space asset resilience.
“There were significant conversations about electro-optic/infrared, or EO-IR, test capabilities, as our team in the Advanced Missile Signature Center has a great depth of knowledge on that subject and EO-IR testing is conducted at both the 412th Test Wing and 96th Test Wing,” said Lt. Col. Dayvid Prahl, commander of the 718 TS.
As most of the group had not been to Arnold before, Prahl noted this was an opportunity for them to gain a “wider understanding across the AFTC about the capabilities available here.”
“Also, on a personal note, Mr. Dan Osburn, 412th Test Wing technical director, was my first supervisor when I commissioned and we both worked at the 418th Test Squadron doing flight test work on C-17s, and this was an excellent opportunity to reconnect and reflect on the paths both of our careers have taken,” Prahl said.
Of her trip to Arnold, Jessica Peterson, technical director for the 412th Operations Group, said it allowed her and the group to “experience the facilities and people that test the cutting-edge technology for the United States Air Force.”
“It was truly awe-inspiring,” Peterson said. “Being able to see and experience firsthand the wind tunnels, engine test cells and ground test facilities that provide our Air Force with information on critical new technologies gave me a new appreciation for the path to get to first flight.”
In addition to her work as technical director, Peterson has been an instructor flight test engineer at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, or TPS, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During her visit, Peterson provided a Lunch and Learn presentation to the AEDC workforce on TPS and the opportunities for military and civilians to apply and attend.
“The possibility for AEDC engineers and operators to attend Test Pilot School and fly in the aircraft that they have worked so hard to test is an amazing opportunity,” she said, noting that those interested can sign up at https://www.edwards.af.mil/Units/USAFTPS/.
Peterson commented that in her flight test career, she has been able to test and fly in the supersonic aircraft that were ground tested at Arnold before they were ever in flight.
“The people of AEDC are the ones who have tested and provided the data so that our aircraft can safely get to those conditions,” she said. “As an instructor at Test Pilot School, we have an event where we teach students about supersonic flight and the interactions between two aircraft when flying through a shockwave.
“To visualize the event, we show students NASA schlieren photography of two U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School T-38 aircraft interacting with each other. It was exciting to learn how AEDC uses similar technology to capture shockwave interactions in the wind tunnel.”
With progress and innovation being a top priority in support of the National Defense Strategy, Peterson added that the work AEDC is doing is important.
“The U.S. Air Force just recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of supersonic flight and is looking toward future technologies,” she said. “AEDC is a critical partner in the Air Force Test Center mission to develop and test the cutting-edge technologies.”