Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base, located outside of Lancaster, California, is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 461st Flight Test Squadron, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force 17 Squadron (17 (R) Sqn). The USAF squadrons perform two phases of F-35 testing, primarily on the F-35A variant, and the 17 (R) Sqn. perform operational test and evaluation on the F-35B.
System Development and Demonstration Test
The 461st Flight Test Squadron executes the System Development and Demonstration phase of flight testing. With 14 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, the joint military, government and contractor team is responsible for ground and flight test of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 variant. Eight F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing and one F-35C carrier variant aircraft are also at Edwards for mission systems testing.
Operational Test and Evaluation
The 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron is responsible for operational test of the F-35A. The squadron evaluates the jet, its support equipment and the logistics supply system in an operationally representative environment. The Netherlands’ first two F-35As are stationed at Edwards for operational testing, strengthening the program’s international partnership and collaboration. The ultimate goal is determining the best uses of the F-35A in real-world combat. Operational tests with the F-35 will include evaluations of the aircraft’s situational survivability and the execution of flight operations at home and in battle. Nellis AFB is also involved in operational test of the F-35A.
In addition, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) 17 Squadron began operational testing of their F-35B early in 2015. The squadron is responsible for all the test and evaluation of the U.K.’s first F-35 Lightning II. Personnel from 17 (R) Sqn, which is made up of engineers and pilots from the RAF and Royal Navy, are flying and maintaining their jets independently from their U.S. colleagues.
Visit the Edwards AFB website.