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412th Test Wing
412th Test Wing - F-35 Lightning II flight testing

X-51A Waverider on B-52 2009.jpg

X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle mounted to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base
Active 29 November 1943-Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Wing
Role Flight Testing
Size 5,000
Part of Air Force Materiel Command.png  Air Force Materiel Command
Garrison/HQ Edwards Air Force Base, California
Motto(s) "Proof by Trial"
Tail Code "ED"
Decorations Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Brigadier General Michael T. Brewer[1]
412th Test Wing emblem 412th Test Wing.png

The 412th Test Wing (412 TW) is a wing of the United States Air Force, assigned to the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.


The 412th Test Wing plans, conducts, analyzes, and reports on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapons systems, software and components as well as modeling and simulation for the USAF. It is also the host wing for Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. - the 2nd largest base in the Air Force. The wing oversees base day-to-day operations and provides support for over 10,000 military, federal civilian and contract personnel assigned to a 470 square mile installation. Approximately 1500 Test Wing Desert Warriors directly support the test and evaluation mission of the Air Force Test Center and the 412th Test Wing.[2] The wing is responsible for operating the base, including the infrastructure, communication systems, security, fire protection, transportation, supply, finance, contracting, legal services, personnel and manpower support, housing, education, chapel and quality of life programs on a 301,000-acre base in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the second largest base in the U.S. Air Force.[2]

The 412th TW is host to over 100,000 visitors annually and supports over 25,000 dependents, retirees, and veterans. Major units within the wing include the 412th Mission Support and the 412th Medical Groups, as well the 412th Civil Engineer/Transportation Directorate, 412th Security Forces Squadron and the Services and Comptroller Divisions. Staff agencies include chaplain services, base comptroller, inspector general, manpower and organization, and military equal opportunity and public affairs.[2]


  • 412th Operations Group (412 OG)[3]
There are eight flight test squadrons with as many as 20 aircraft assigned to each. The aircraft are grouped by mission
Global Power (fighters and bombers)
411th Flight Test Squadron: (F-22)
416th Flight Test Squadron: (F-16)
419th Flight Test Squadron: (B-52H, B-1, B-2)
445th Flight Test Squadron: (Initial Flight Test Operations, T-38)
461st Flight Test Squadron: (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter)
Global Reach (transport)
412th Flight Test Squadron: (C-135C Speckled Trout)
418th Flight Test Squadron: (C-130 and special operations variants; CV-22; KC-135 and special variants)
Global Vigilance (unmanned)
452d Flight Test Squadron: (RQ-4)
Flying units under the Operations Group are called flight test squadrons and the squadron commander also usually fulfills the role of Combined Test Force, or CTF, Director.[2]
The CTF is an organizational construct that brings together the government developmental test and evaluation personnel (i.e., military personnel and government civilians and support contractors), the operational testers or representatives of the warfighters who will eventually employ the aerospace system in combat, and the contractors who develop and test the aerospace system.[2]
Members of the CTF formulate the test program, develop the criteria for flight test missions, execute flight test missions, analyze data from the test flights and report on the results. The CTF military personnel, government civilians, and contractors all work together as a team. This concept enables a cheaper, faster, and more effective test program and produces a more effective aerospace system for the warfighter.[2]
Risk is an accepted component of flight testing, but because of Edwards' benchmark flight test safety processes, the center maintains a stellar safety record. The AFTC's mission focuses on Developmental Test and Evaluation which is the process used to identify risks that need to be reduced or eliminated before fielding new systems. Once DT&E is accomplished, aircraft systems transition to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOT&E where the aircraft is evaluated for combat effectiveness and suitability for an intended mission.[2]
  • 412th Test Engineering Group (412 TENG)[3]
773d Test Squadron
775th Test Squadron
812th Test Squadron
412th Hypersonic Flight Test Team
412th Range Squadron
  • 412th Electronic Warfare Group (412 EWG)[3]
771st Test Squadron
The 412th Engineering and the 412th Electronic Warfare Groups provide the central components in the conduct of the Test and Evaluation mission. They provide the tools, talent and equipment for the core disciplines of aircraft structures, propulsion, avionics and electronic warfare evaluation of the latest weapon system technologies. They are also host to the core facilities that enable flight and ground test with the Range Division, Benefield Anechoic Facility, Integrated Flight Avionics Systems Test Facility and the Air Force Electronic Warfare Evaluation Simulator.[2]
  • 412th Maintenance Group (412 MXG)[3]
Through a maintenance group of over 2,000 people and an operations group of 3,000, the 412th Test Wing maintains and flies an average of 90 aircraft with upwards of 30 different aircraft designs and performs over 7,400 missions (over 1,900 test missions) on an annual basis.[2]
  • 412th Test Management Division (412 TMD)[3]
Project Management Division
Resource Management Division
Special Projects Branch
Rounding out the test wing are the Project and Resource Management Divisions who provide the foundation for the successful program management of test missions.[2]
The Test Pilot School, also part of the test wing, is where the Air Force's top pilots, navigators and engineers learn how to conduct flight tests and generate the data needed to carry out test missions. Human lives and millions of dollars depend upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown. The comprehensive curriculum of Test Pilot School is fundamental to the success of flight test and evaluation.[2]


World War II

The 412th Test Wing's origins begin on 29 November 1943 as the 412th Fighter Group, activated at Army Air Base, Muroc, California. Its original mission was to conduct tests and engage in experimental aircraft work, being assigned to Fourth Air Force headquarters.[4]

Bell XP-59A being tested by the 412th Fighter Group, 1943

During World War II, much of Muroc AAB was dedicated to training combat flight crews. Throughout the war years, B-24 Liberators thundered through the Muroc skies and P-38 Lightnings strafed the targets on the range as bomber crews and fighter pilots prepared to do battle overseas.[5] However, a site was chosen alongside the north shore of Rogers Dry Lakebed, about six miles away from the training base at Muroc. A wooden hangar and rudimentary facilities sprang up and on 1 October 1942 the experimental Bell XP-59A Airacomet first took off from the enormous, flat surface of the dry lakebed. The turbojet revolution had arrived. America's first jet plane was shortly joined by a second, the Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star.[5] As with virtually all of the test programs conducted during the war years, most of the actual flight test work on the XP-59 was conducted by the contractor. Although Army Air Forces (AAF) pilots flew the aircraft from time to time, and flight test engineers from Wright Field reviewed the data, the formal preliminary military test and evaluation program did not commence until the Fall of 1943, a year after the first flight.[5]

The 412th tested a wide variety of Army Air Force aircraft from November 1943 – 1946. It was the first U.S. jet fighter group to be activated, and spent most of its early existence in experimental testing of the P-59A and P-80 aircraft. The group developed training programs and trained aircrew and ground personnel as cadres for newly formed jet aircraft-equipped units. It was inactivated on 3 July 1946, its mission being assumed by the 2759th Experimental Wing.[4][5]

Air Defense Command

31st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Convair F-102A-80-CO Delta Dagger - 56-1440, 1957, Wurtsmuth AFB, Michigan

On 18 August 1955 the 412th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was activated by Air Defense Command at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan. Assigned to the 4708th Air Defense Wing at Selfridge AFB, the mission of the group was the air defense of the Upper Great Lakes region. Operational squadrons were the 445th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, moved from Geiger Field, Washington, and the 31st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which was moved from Larson Air Force Base, Washington. The 445th FIS was equipped with Northrup F-89 Scorpions. The 31st FIS flew the F-102 Delta Dagger, however it remained at the base only briefly, before being deployed to Elmendorf AFB, near Anchorage, Alaska, on 20 August 1957 to serve on Alaskan Air Command defense duty. The 31st FIS was replaced by the 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 20 August 1957, being moved from Ladd AFB, near Fairbanks, Alaska. The 18th also flew F-102s as the second FIS at Wurtsmith. With the transfer of Wurtsmith to Strategic Air Command jurisdiction on 1 Apr 1960, ADC phased down its presence to a tenant organization. The 412th Fighter Group was inactivated on 1 April 1960.

USAF flight testing

The first USAF F-4 Phantom II, McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom 63-7407. Shown about 1990 while assigned to the 6512th Test Squadron just before its retirement.

On 1 March 1978, the 6510th Test Wing was established and activated at Edwards AFB, California as part of a re-organization of units at Edwards by Air Force Systems Command. The 6510th assumed the flying mission of the Air Force Flight Test Center, which was established in June 1951. The new Wing had a long, established history at Edwards, having been the base host unit since the establishment of the USAF Flight Test Center.[6]

In the late 1970s, the Wing flew flight tests on the F-15C Eagle with its advanced engine and fire-control system; the single-engine F-16C Fighting Falcon with its revolutionary, "fly-by-wire" flight control system; and the Rockwell B-1A and the later B-1B Lancer in the 1980s with its multitude of highly sophisticated offensive and defensive systems. These planes more than bore out the prophecy concerning the ever-increasing importance of systems testing and integration. At a remote location in 1978 and 1979, an AFFTC test pilot and a pair of flight test engineers were engaged in proof-of-concept testing with Lockheed's "low-observable" technology demonstrator, dubbed "Have Blue." The successful conduct of these tests led immediately to the development of a new subsonic attack aircraft that was designated the F-117A Nighthawk.[5]

McDonnell Douglas F-15B Eagle 76-0132, 6512th Test Squadron. Transferred in 2006 to the 46th Test Wing, Eglin AFB, Florida

The wing performed free-flight testing of the Space Transportation System (STS) for NASA from 1978–1980, and in April 1981 recovered the shuttle Columbia following the first-ever orbital mission of a reusable spacecraft. The wing continues to provide an alternate landing site services for STS recovery, most recently for the Atlantis during its STS-117 mission.

The dual-role F-15E Strike Eagle was developed in the 1980s and went on to demonstrate remarkable combat effectiveness in the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict. The Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN, system revolutionized air-to-ground combat operations during the Gulf War by the same conflict by denying Saddam Hussein's forces the once comforting sanctuary of night. The wing deployed support personnel and equipment to Southwest Asia for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm from, August 1990-March 1991. While deployed, it performed tests on radar and weapons system accuracy.[5]

YF-16 and YF-17 in flight during their competitive fly-off, 1974. Over 4,000 production F-16s were built after the competition. The YF-17 was the basis for the highly successful United States Navy F/A-18 Hornet

The late 1980s also witnessed the arrival of the first giant flying wing to soar over the base in nearly 40 years. The thin silhouette, compound curves and other low-observable characteristics of the B-2 Spirit bomber represented third-generation stealth technology, following the SR-71 and F-117.[5] In June 1992, Air Force Systems Command was inactivated, being replaced by Air Materiel Command (AMC). AMC replaced the 4-digit AFSC 6510th Test Wing on 2 October 1992 by reactivating the AFCON 412th Test Wing, which assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 6510th. The 412th also was consolidated with the 6510th, which preserved the history and honors of the provisional AFSC unit since its establishment in 1978. In the early 1990s, AFSC received YF-22A and the YF-23A Advanced Tactical Fighters, both of which would soon give a new definition to the term "air superiority."

Prototype YF-22 and YF-23 fighters, 1991

The two prototype fighters were the first airplanes to blend stealth technology with agility and high-speed, supersonic cruise capability. The YF-22A was selected to become the Air Force's new advanced tactical fighter after a brief demonstration and validation risk reduction flight test program. Now named the Raptor, the F-22A continues to undergo test and evaluation by the Wing's 411th Flight Test Squadron.[5]

A new group of research projects came to the 412th TW in the 1990s. RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle that has been used extensively in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqui Freedom (Iraq), made its first flight at Edwards in February 1998 and has gone on to fill a critical role in the Global War on Terrorism. The Martin Marietta X-24A, Lockheed Martin X-33, Orbital Sciences X-34 and X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicle, a series of new lifting bodies, technology demonstrators and half-scale models that might make space flight, research and development safer and more economical, were tested at Edwards by NASA.[5]

Other projects of the 412th included XF-35A Lightning II and Boeing X-32, competing models for the Joint Strike Fighter program, made their first flights in September and October 2000. The X-35A won the competition in 2001 and will eventually be built in various versions for America's flying armed services and for foreign air forces as well. Also new are the Airborne Laser Program and several Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Programs.[5]


Legacy 6510th Test Wing emblem

412th Fighter Group

  • Constituted as 412th Fighter Group (Single Engine) on 20 November 1943
Activated on 29 November 1943
Inactivated on 3 July 1946
  • Re-designated 412th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 June 1955
Activated on 18 August 1955
Discontinued on 1 April 1960
  • Re-designated 412th Tactical Fighter Group on 31 July 1985 but remained inactive.
  • Consolidated with 6510th Test Wing on 1 October 1992.
Established as 3076th Air Base Group, 20 May 1949
Re-designated 6510th Air Base Group, 25 June 1951
Established as 6510th Test Wing, 1 March 1978
Re-designated 412th Test Wing on 2 October 1992
6510th Test Group re-designated 412th Test Group assigned as subordinate unit
412th Operations Group established and activated as subordinate unit, 1 October 1993, assuming personnel and assets of 412th Test Group (Inactivated)


Attached to Detroit Air Defense Sector, 1 April 1959-1 April 1960


  • 412th Operations Group: 1 October 1993-Current
  • 6545th (later 545th) Test Group: 1 January 1979 – 1 August 1996
  • 6510th (later 412th) Test Group: 10 March 1989 – 30 September 1993
World War II/Cold War
Flight Testing



  • Muroc AAF, California, 29 November 1943
  • Palmdale AAF, California, 1 June 1944
  • Bakersfield Airport, California, 11 October 1944
  • Santa Maria Army Airfield, California, 10 July 1945

Aircraft assigned

Tested from 1978–1992

Tested from 1993 – present


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.

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