Edwards AFB, CA Image 1
    Edwards AFB, CA Image 2

    Edwards AFB, CA History

    Edwards Air Force Base's history extends back to 1876, when the site was a water stop for Southern Pacific Railroad trains crossing the Mojave Desert. In 1910, the Corum family established a homestead at this location, on the shoreline of dry Rogers Lake, attracting settlers, and the small settlement was named Muroc by the Post Office (Corum already being in use). In the 1930s Lt. Col. "Hap" Arnold settled on Rogers Lake as an excellent natural runway, as it was already very flat, and large scale maneuvers were conducted here, including large scale maneuvers in 1937 with the entire Army Air Corps. Land was acquired and March Field came under the control of the Army Air Corps. Local use of the very flat lake bed for racing continued for several years, until restricted due to security concerns.

    Increasing world tensions led to increasing military build up, and March Field developed as a training center. On the afternoon of 7 December 1941, even as the Pearl Harbor attack unfolded, reconnaissance and bomber units arrived at March Field for training. In the first year of the war the site developed rapidly as a bomber and fighter escort operational training center, and was renamed Muroc Lake Army Airfield. Later in 1942 the remote Muroc Airfield began to be used for top secret experimental aircraft testing, starting with the p-59 Airacomet, the first US jet fighter. Other then-top-secret aircraft weapon tested at Muroc was the JB-1 Bat, an experimental flying wing surface-to-surface cruise missile; the XP-56 Black Bullet, a radical blunt-nosed swept-wing and tailless design; the MX-334 and MX-324 gliders, part of a rocket research program; the XP-79B Flying Ram, a rocket glider flying wing which required the pilot to fly in a prone position and is said to have been intended for aerial ramming attacks; and the JB-10 Power Bomb aka Jet Bomb, a jet-powered swept-wing cruise missile.

    Muroc Airfield continued as a testing center post-War, testing early jet plane designs, including the XP-84 Thunderjet, P-80 Shooting Star, the YB-49 Flying Wing, and was the site of Captain "Chuck" Yeager's first sonic barrier-breaking flight in the rocket-powered X-1. Testing divided into highly experimental and practical operational testing, a patterned that continues. Muroc was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in December 1949 in honor of Captain Glen W. Edwards, killed while testing the YB-49 Flying Wing.

    Edwards AFB became a primary test center for rapidly advancing aircraft designs and jet and rocket engines in the Cold War. One flight speed or altitude record after another was broken by Edwards-based aircraft, and a long list of now famous planes, fighters and bombers, were tested at Edwards. Particularly notable were the X-15, a rocket plane and first space plane; the YB-12A, precursor of the SR-71 Blackbird. The YB-12A shattered nine speed, altitude, and other performance records in one flight. Later radical advancements tested at Edwards include stealth aircraft technology, notably the F-117A Nighthawk and the B-2 Spirit, and spacecraft technology, including the first air-to-space missile launch, space plane and space body gliding designs used on the Space Shuttle. Nonmilitary air and space technology achievements at Edwards include the Space Shuttle, Burt Rutan's first non-stop single fuelling around the world orbit on the Rutan Voyager, and a rocket sled launch system. Edwards lakebed runway is very long and flat, and was the primary landing field for the Space Shuttles until 1991, when it became the backup landing site.

    Post-Cold War testing at Edwards AFB is less publicly available, but is known to include the YF-22A Raptor air superiority fighter, the Global Hawk unmanned air vehicles, the Joint Strike Fighter program aircraft, the YAL-1 Airborne Laser, and C-17 Globemaster III. Edwards continues to have a strong and growing role in ultramodern aircraft development and experimental testing.