Edwards flight testers exercise for war performing real-world test for Taiwan
But the base’s unique mission of flight test “launches” support for GWOT each day from the Edwards flightline; support that was put to the test, Feb. 27 through March 3, as part of an Operational Readiness Exercise here.
The 416th Flight Test Squadron proved its ability to “go to war” by accelerating a flight test program already in the works for the Government of Taiwan.
“Basically, the (412th Test Wing) has the authority to quick-turn capabilities requested by combatant commanders and needed immediately by the warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Robert Malacrida, 416th FLTS Taiwan High Angle of Attack test pilot. “The ORE allowed us to practice just that; we proved our “surge” capability using a test program we were already conducting for the Taiwanese Government on an F-16 pylon.”
By designating this program a “test surge” for the exercise, the 416th FLTS was able to mobilize support from 22 different organizations and more than 200 contractors, civilians and military experts in order to complete all planned testing in one week, said Joe Flores, 416th FLTS Taiwan High AoA program manager.
This rapid mobilization was possible because when a program is designated a “test surge” (a label for ongoing programs) or a “test acceleration” (a label for a new programs), it receives priority for Air Force Flight Test Center resources over all other programs.
“This designation allowed us to fly approximately nine hours and finish out the original project objectives in three flights,” said Mr. Flores.
The program, which began in January, ended about two weeks early because of the squadron’s participation in the ORE.
The testing itself was performed to equip the Taiwan Air Force’s F-16s with the capability to carry a pylon that can deploy and tow decoys while maintaining the aircraft’s full maneuverability, said Jeff Chen, 416th FLTS Taiwan High AoA project engineer. It is part of the squadron’s foreign military sales mission, which aids foreign allies with flight test.
“This pylon is a functional replacement for the standard weapons pylon and provides the additional capability for the jet to carry two towed decoys,” Mr. Chen said. “The decoys are intended to deploy from the pylon and trail behind the jet drawing missiles away from the aircraft.”
The overall test objective was to evaluate the Block 30 F-16’s high angle-of-attack handling, resistance to uncontrollable flight, and recovery characteristics with the pylon and decoys attached to the aircraft, Mr. Chen said.
“The exercise allowed us to finish ahead of schedule,” he said, “so we are now exploring alternative configurations to try and increase maneuver performance over what we have preliminarily assessed to date.”
While the ORE saved the 416th FLTS some time and money, the real purpose was to practice its wartime mission.
“We must to be able to meet a pressing warfighter need when called on to do so,” said Colonel Malacrida. “For example, the 416th was involved in incorporating 500-lb (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on to F-16s to provide our forces in (Iraq) with precision strike capability while minimizing collateral damage. Central Command said they needed it, and they had it within a month.”
In the last year, the 412th TW has conducted eight test accelerations and test surges in support of GWOT.
“It’s a direct way in which Edwards’ flight test goes to war,” Colonel Malacrida said, “and last week we trained as we fight.”
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