posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 07:54 PM
Your not going to find this on the web I don't think. But if you do you'll need a password to access it. It's not classified but it sheds some
light on what's going on right now in aviation. Here's a letter from CMSgt Hughes, Superintendent of the 412th Ops Group at Edwards AFB, CA, and a
fellow boom operator. Some of you (gariac,shadowhawk, etc) might enjoy this!
Greetings from Edwards AFB!
I am pleased to introduce the boom operators of the 412th Operations Group, 412 Test Wing, Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC), AFMC (Air Force
Material Command). I am new to the “Test” world and I would like to share with you the education I have received during my first month on the job.
I may muck this up but I will give it a go. There are two groups of testers at Edwards AFB because there are two different ongoing testing
operations: Experimental testing and operational testing. Tanker experimental testing is accomplished by the 445th (active duty) and 370th
(reserve) Flight Test Squadrons which fall under the 412th OG, yadda, yadda, yadda. Experimental testing is the place where the brilliance of PhD’s
and Engineers is put to the test; to put the concept in laymen’s terms: “Hey test dudes…John, Paul, Ringo and I came up with this great idea in
Paul’s garage using popsicle sticks, zip-ties, duct tape, 5-50 cord and a 9-volt battery; the 19 page algorithm indicates our contraption will
produce 1.21 gigawatts that could have numerous aviation applications and we want to see if it will work”. The appropriate experimental test
squadron takes the $27M popsicle stick/9v battery thingamabob and put it thru the ringer. If the gizmo works it is sent for operational testing with
the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC). AFOTEC is a Direct Reporting Unit (DRU) that reports directly to the CSAF. AFOTEC
determines, thru operationally realistic testing, if the doohickey meets the operational needs of the war fighter in effectiveness and suitability.
To summarize, experimental testers are the First in the AF to play with some really cool toys and see if they work. If the toys work, operational
testers determine if the toys have a war fighting value. One of the unintended consequences of a protracted war is that weapons systems developed,
tested, evaluated at Edwards AFB today are literally on the battlefield tomorrow; a very short flash to bang ratio. Folks talk about being on the
pointy end of the spear…Edwards is two meters in front of the spear.
What are we up to:
What the experimental test boom operators execute is way outside the paradigm. This last year the booms executed supported, evaluated test programs
valued at over $2,000,000,000….just in case there are too many zeros I am talking 2+ billion dollars. They accomplished in-flight refueling testing
with JSF (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter), Gripen, RPA (remote piloted aircraft), and provided air refueling systems design expertise to the Navy for their
carrier based UAV program; additionally, they continued testing on everything in the inventory with air refueling capability and also tanker operating
system upgrades. Booms flew KC-135, KC-10, KC-767, and KC-30 test missions in Sweden, Italy, Japan, and Australia. If that is not enough, there is
also this little school called Test Pilot School (TPS) just down the road that needs tanker support from time to time. I counted 6 sonic booms today
that rattled my office windows. Every day is an air show that showcases the AF’s next generation weapon systems; many times boom operators find
themselves sitting in the catbird’s seat.
Down the road:
We will continue the modernization testing of our old war horses (KC135/KC-10) as well as work with allied nation AF’s in the testing and
development of their tanker systems. We know the KC-46 is somewhere out on the horizon just out of view and it will not be long before Edwards booms
fly the first historic test flights. We will continue to develop the air refueling capabilities of the next generation strike and support aircraft,
both manned and unmanned. If that is not enough, we are working very hard to establish an Enlisted Aircrew Test and Evaluation School that will fall
under the TPS umbrella. Once the school/curriculum is up and running the plan is to follow up with a specialized Test and Evaluation CCAF degree
program. There is no rest for the wicked and a rolling stone gathers no moss.
Shawn M. Hughes, CMSgt, USAF
Superintendent, 412 Operations Group
Booms stationed at Edwards:
CMSgt Shawn Hughes: Just arrived from Altus. Unfortunately we don’t know enough about him to say anything funny, bad mean, or stupid…time will
MSgt Tom Ireland: Is he a boom? We can’t remember, he claims he is, but the only response we get from him is “Can’t fly at the OG”…ALL THE
SSgt Matt Werner: At the OG too, Matt does his best to fly, at the aero club…
MSgt Liv Hoornstra: Pregnant most of the year, had a baby, and is back raising hell. God help us all.
MSgt Scott Beasley: Scott could not get out of test ops soon enough. After stealing the job from Liv at AFOTEC, he feels no remorse. Good luck with
TSgt Lindsay Moon: Lindsay left us to go to Australia, he is seldom heard from, but we are reminded of how much he did every time Scott is found in
the hall complaining.
SSgt Jake Sarno: Busy chasing chicks and dirt biking….Jake occasionally graces us with his presence at work. We are thinking about loaning him to
SMSgt Mike Kibler: Finally out of test ops and at the 418th, we often wonder if the grass really is greener or if he secured his retirement job.
SMSgt Mark O’Conner: Mark, Mark, Mark, Kidney Stone, Kidney Stone, Kidney Stone. Need I say more?
MSgt John Williams: When John isn’t flying his RC planes, he is busy finding old booms to dump behind the building, we think he’s a hoarder.
TSgt Scott Scurlock: When Scott isn’t following the training flight dchie around making sure he isn’t screwing everything up, he is found
wandering the halls complaining about him. It’s only a matter of time before he gets mono again.
Because there has not been a tanker that has required operational testing for acquisition purposes since the KC-10 roughly 30 years ago, boom
operator-wise AFOTEC has been on again off again sitting dormant. In anticipation of the KC-46 AFOTEC has hired MSgt Scott Beasley (see above