Goodbye Edwards, hello Nellis

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An F-35 pilot prepares for flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 7, 2019. Six F-35s recently left Edwards and were reassigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., following the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron’s completion of the F-35’s initial operational test and evaluation. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., said farewell to six of its F-35 Lightning II’s in October. The F-35s were transferred to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to continue initial operational testing.

The 31st TES (Test and Evaluation Squadron), a tenant unit at Edwards, recently completed their portion of the mission of conducting initial operational evaluation tests of the aircraft. The 31st TES, whose parent unit is the 53rd Wing out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, served as part of the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team.

The F-35 will continue through its operational test program,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Thulin, 31st TES Commander. “We consolidated the fleets at Nellis, so they can launch operationally relevant numbers of instrumented airplanes.”

Completing IOT&E allows for the Full Rate Production decision to be made and leads into the production and fielding of more F-35s. The six F-35s are now assigned to the 422nd TES at Nellis. Following the F-35 movement, the 31st TES will continue to work on or provide support for other test programs, Thulin said.

“We will continue to do operational test of our legacy bomber programs as well as our C2ISR (Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) operational test and we’ll posture up for follow-on programs,” Thulin said.

Thulin said the squadron’s success could be attributed to the people that make up the 31st.

“I can’t say enough about the 31st TES members,” he said. “The maintainers, the operators, and the engineers that make up our squadron are the finest group of Americans I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.”