For more than fifty years, since the 1940s, Edwards Air Force Base AFB) has been an epicenter for revolutions in flight and a significant flight-test facility for investigating the critical disciplines of flight. Located on the western edge of the Mojave Desert in the state of California, Edwards AFB is about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California.
Edwards AFB was first used by the military, specifically the US Army Air Corps in 1933, as a bombardment and gunnery range. Four years later, most Air Corps squadrons were performing bombardment and gunnery movements there.
Edwards AFB is the home of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC), where the US Air Force and a number of other US Government agencies test, develop, and evaluate aircraft in the US inventory. The AFFTC is responsible for research and development of the nation's aerospace weapons systems, from design stage to operational readiness.
The AFFTC also conducts, supports, and participates in test and evaluation programs for other US Air Force units, the Department of Defense (DoD), the DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the US Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.
Due to Edwards' good year-round weather conditions and location, it is an ideal place to test aircraft and an ideal landing site for space-shuttle flights. Rogers Dry Lake bed, a natural playa, serves as a perfect runway for many flight-test programs and a ready-made place for emergency landings.
The 301,000 square acres of Edwards AFB has approximately 785 military officers and nearly 3,600 military enlisted men and women, plus some 10,800 civilian employees.
The AFFTC has functioned as the focal point for testing and evaluating aircraft and spacecraft concepts and designs. It has contributed directly to the improved combat capabilities of the US Air Force, as well as America's other armed forces. Many aerospace "firsts" have taken place in the sky above Edwards AFB.
The latest top-secret aerospace project supposedly undergoing test flights at Edwards AFB is the Aurora hypersonic spyplane. Has the Blackbird's title as fastest interceptor spyplane been demolished? Reports suggest that it has long been succeeded but kept in secrecy at its home in the Nevada desert, Area 51.
Secrecy is something difficult to achieve at Edwards AFB, but apparently there are so many different experimental planes there that it simply isn't noticed as being Aurora. An employee at the Tonopah Test Range said "There is so much coming and going out of there that no one notices." This implies that the plane looks and sounds similar to an ordinary aircraft on takeoff and landing. A possible hangar for the hypersonic aircraft has also been identified. There is an underground hangar at Edwards North Base. The former TTR worker said that on the surface it "looks abandonned", but there is a ramp down into a modern, active hangar below ground.
Edwards AFB is where the nation's first jet and rocket-powered flights took place. It is the place where men and aircraft first exceeded the Mach
numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, and where they first flew above 100,000 feet, 200,000 feet, and 300,000 feet.