Tag Archives: B-2

Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards AF Base

During the recent honeymoon trip to the USA, Luca and I managed to visit 5 aerospace museums, 3 airplane assembly lines, 2 US air force bases and 1 space observatory… be sure some of the coming posts will be related to that side of the trip.

Air Force Flight Test Center Museum at Edwards AF Base

Since we were going to visit California and we would be around the desert of Mojave I thought that we could make a detour to visit Edwards Air Force Base, where the Flight Test Center of the USAF is located.

The Flight Test Center has got a museum which is open to the public, for which identification is needed and no carry on items able to take pictures of videos are permitted. The museum is free and opens 5 days a week. On top of that there is a monthly guided visit of the air base, flight line included. This tour is offered only once a month and you have to subscribe with some time in advance.

Several dozens of aircraft have first flown at Edwards and that, together with Rogers dry lake is what makes the place so special.

First Flights Wall at Edwards AFB (public domain image).

Some very famous flights at Edwards: the Bell XS-1 which first reached the speed of sound with “Chuck” Yeager at the controls, the test campaigns of the YC-130 (Hercules), C-17 Globemaster III (and the prototype YC-15 from which it got many features), testing of the Space Shuttle, testing of today’s state of the art fighters F-22 and F-35… take a look at the wall to get an idea.

Rogers Dry Lake is by itself a national historic landmark. The lake formed thousands of years ago, and today it’s mostly dry along the year and the strength of the ground permits it to have several unpaved very long runways in its lakebed. The longest one being over 12 kilometers long. It also has the world’s greatest compass rose marked into the lake to help flight test pilots guide themselves. It was there, in the lake, where the now retired Space Shuttle would land in its return from space.

Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards (public domain image).

The exhibit at the museum displays a replica of the XS-1, the first 2 F-22 prototypes, an exhibit about the formation of the lake, the history of the base, some remarkable test pilots, etc. The outdoors display has as a highlight a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (a classic in US aviation museums).

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird at Edwards (public domain image).

The area of the base is of 1,200 km2 (this is about 1/7th of the region of Madrid). The visit to it, museum included, lasts about 3 hours. There are veterans offering explanations at the museum and at one restoration hangar within the base. Our guided tour was led by a young aerial photographer, Jet Set  (what a name! :-)), who made if very enjoyable.

Along the flight line of the base, for the pleasure of European-based spotters (who don’t have the chance to see them often), were some test F-35s, F-22s, C-17s, Global Hawks, F-16s, etc. Apart from some aircraft flying around. I, however, missed seeing the B-2 that was somewhere “hidden” in the base (next time!).

Edwards AF Base entrance.

Edwards AF Base entrance.

Rosamond Dry Lake (a lake close to Rogers Dry Lake).

Rosamond Dry Lake (a lake close to Rogers Dry Lake).





Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Travelling

US Air Force fleets evolution

In these days in which the sequester is being often in the media, this will be a very brief post to bring to the memory a study prepared by Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, founded by the Air Force Association, “ARSENAL OF AIRPOWER: USAF Aircraft Inventory 1950-2009” [PDF, 6.5 MB], published in November 2010.

I wanted to bring forward some comments and two graphics:

  • “To put matters into perspective, a single C-17 can carry the equivalent of 15 C-47 loads (as well as cargo that could never fit inside a C-47) and deliver that cargo anywhere in the world within hours without requiring en-route staging bases.”
  • “The average cost of a flying hour over the past decade is around $23,000 (in constant FY11 dollars), compared to about $11,000 in 1985 and roughly $4,800 in 1970.”
  • “For example, a single B-2 now armed with 80 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) could strike as many targets as five of the 75-aircraft 1991 Gulf War era packages.”
US Air Force fleet evolution 1950-2009.

US Air Force fleet evolution 1950-2009.

US Air Force Airlift fleet, 1950-2009.

US Air Force Airlift fleet, 1950-2009.

The keyword here is capability, not numbers.

I will come back to here in following posts.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence