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Archeological findings indicate that native Americans inhabited the area known as Edwards AFB on a seasonal basis as early as 20.000 years ago.

The region was explored by the Spaniards in the 18th century. and by Americans. such as John C. Fremont. in the early 19th century. The first permanent settlements, however. came about as a result of railroad expansion into the western Mojave during the 1870's.

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The Southern Pacific Railroad was first into the region in 1876. when it extended a line from the San Joaquin Valley. over the Tehachapi Mountains, and through the Antelope Valley toward Los Angeles. In 1882. additional tracks. which would ultimately become a part of the Atchison. Topeka and Santa Fe network, were extended westward out of Barstow toward Mojave and crossed what is now Rogers Dry Lake on Edwards AFB.

A water stop was located at the edge of the immense dry lake, roughly 20 miles southeast of Mojave and in 1910. Clifford Comm. his wife Effie. and his brother. Ralph. established a homestead nearby. Seeking to attract others to the area, they built a combination store and post office. Their request to have the post office named "Corum" was disallowed by postal officials because a similar name was already in use elsewhere in California. So. they simply reversed the spelling of their name and came up with "Muroc." It was a name what would stick for nearly 40 years.

The dry lake and the area to the east were first used by the military in late 1933 when a small detachment from March Field laid out the first of several temporary bombing and gunnery ranges. By 1937, the entire Army Air Corps was conducting bombing and gunnery maneuvers and a semipermanent tent camp had been established along the lakebed's eastern shoreline.

Designated originally as the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range. and later as Muroc Army Air Field. the base played an important role in the training of fighter and bomber crews throughout World War II.

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The most unusual sight on the dry lakebed during these times was a 650-foot. full-scale wooden mockup of a Japanese Mogami-class heavy cruiser. Christened the "Muroc Maru." it was used for ship identification. strafing and ship bombing practice. Located at the western edge of the lakebed. it startled many motorists traveling along the northern edge of the base because it looked like an actual ship afloat in the shimmering heat waves radiating from the dry lakebed. It was finally dismantled in 1950 after being declared a flight hazard.

In 1942. a team from the Materiel Center at Wright Field, Dayton. Ohio, came to Muroc and evaluated it as a potential site for a test program which would rival the Manhattan Projects development of the atomic bomb in terms of secrecy. Three primary factors were considered in their deliberations:Proximity to rail transportation. distance from populated areas. and the availability of a suitable landing field. Muroc met all three. The test program would involve the Bell XP-59A "Airacomet." America's first jet aircraft.

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The top secret program was conducted out of a hastily constructed site at the north end of Muroc Dry Lake. On Oct. 1. 1942, Bell test pilot Bob Stanley took the aircraft up for its maiden flight and the jet age was underway in America.

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The successful XP-59A program, and subsequent testing of the Lockheed XP-80-prototype of America's first operational jet. made it obvious that Muroc was ideally suited for year-round flight testing because of its excellent weather and the presence of the dry lakebed which provided an immense natural runway for emergency landings. Over the years the lakebed has saved countless lives and literally billions of dollars worth of aircraft.

In the post-war years, the operations at both North and South bases were combined and the installation became a full-time flight test facility. South Base (which was the old main base) became the site for one of the major events in all of aviation history the first attempts to exceed the fabled "speed of sound." This epic milestone was passed Oct. 14. 1947. when then-Capt. Charles E. Yeager piloted the Bell X-1 to a speed of Mach 1.06.

The post-war years also witnessed the first stages of a program to develop a rocket engine test site along Leuhman Ridge above the east shore of Muroc Dry Lake. This site has since been transformed into Phillips Laboratory. where the technology for ballistic missiles and space motors is developed.

By the late 1940,s. the Air Force began developing a master plan for the construction of modern facilities designed specifically for flight testing. Over the next decade. more than $120 million was spent on the construction and development of the current main base complex. Included in this effort was the acquisition of additional land from private ownership and the Bureau

of Land Management which increased the base's acreage to its present total area of 301,000 acres.

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New Name, New Missions

Ceremonies renaming the base in honor of Capt. Glen W. Edwards. an accomplished test pilot killed in the crash of an experimental YB-49 "Flying Wing" June 1948, were conducted Jan. 27. 1950.

The Air Force Flight Test Center was officially activated at Edwards AFB June 25. 1951, just four months after the Air Force's Test Pilot School had been transferred to the base from Wright-Patterson AFB. Ohio. The school's mission is to train experienced and qualified personnel to become test pilots and flight test engineers.

On Jan 1. 1979. the Hill and Wendover Ranges. and part of the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. were consolidated into the Utah Test and Training Range and placed under the management of the AFFTC.

Over the years. Edwards has become synonymous with aeronautical achievement and it has become famous as the site of many aerospace "firsts."

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Edwards is where the nation's first jet- and rocket-powered flights took place. It is where men and aircraft first exceeded Mach 1. 2, 3. 4. 5 and 6. and where they first flew above 100.000, 200.000 and 300,000 feet. The famed North American rocket aircraft set altitude and speed marks of 354,200 feet and 4. 520 mph that still stands for winged aircraft.

Edwards is the site where lifting body research flights, that helped in development and design of the space shuttle, were carried out, the space shuttle's approach and landing tests were conducted in 1977. and where the first landings from space began in April 1981.

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Presently at Edwards. Combined Test Forces comprised of military and civilian personnel work together to flight test and evaluate improvements and new systems on modern aircraft.

Among these tests are improvements to engine. radar weapons delivery and navigation systems. and a system to give tactical pilots the ability to strike ground targets from low altitudes at night and in adverse weather. They are also testing the Air Force's newest cargo aircraft, the C-17. and the advanced B-2 Stealth Bomber.

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Mission Statement

The Air Force Flight Test Center plans. accomplishes and reports on Air Force development test and evaluation of manned and unmanned aircraft systems; participates in and reports on test of operational flight simulator trainers~ supports and participates in Air Force initial operational test and evaluation and follow-on tests of manned aircraft systems: test manned experimental and research aerospace vehicles: tests parachute systems and aerodynamic deceleration devices; operates the USAF Test Pilot School; conducts or supports artificial icing tests for the Air Force and other government agencies:

develops, controls and operates Edwards Flight Test Range. Utah Test and Training Range and test facilities used to support flight testing: and support tenant functions. such as Phillips Laboratory, the Nasa Hugh L. Dr den Flight Research Center and the U.S. Arniv Airworthiness Qualification Test Directorate.


Source: USAF Public Affairs Edwards AFB

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