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Globemaster tails
412th test wing (AFMC)  /  418th Flight test sqdn (afmc)
Edwards afb, ca


With the arrival of a factory fresh C-17 (S/N 03-3121) the USAF now has two aircraft  supporting C-17 testing at Edwards AFB, CA. The newest C-17, -3121 sports a new tailflash along with the Edwards AFB tailcode.  


The prototype C-17, 87-0025 is pictured being towed to the McDonnell Douglas paint hangar before its first flight.


On September 15, 1991 YC-17A 87-0025 is pictured minutes after it lifts off from the runway at McDonnell Douglas's Long Beach plant. 


The first C-17A, 87-0025 is pictured in this early test flight with a red and white stripped instrumentation probe. "T-1" or Test 1 is also painted in the same European One camouflage worn by most USAF aircraft of that era. 

(Click the image above for a news article for the C-17 first flight)

Repainted in "Proud AMC Gray" C-17A, 87-0025 is pictured during test flight. The C-17is used to test all aspectes of the C-17 for the USAF fleet.

Photo by Jim Shryne - USAF   

Freshly painted in full Edwards C-17 markings -0025 taxis past the control tower at at the base on October 19, 2007 before a flight using a Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel blend in one of its engines. All four engines ran the fuel blend in subsequent tests.


C-17A 03-3121 lands in a unprepared landing strip during testing at Ft. McCoy WI. The C-17 was added to the fleet to assist in C-17 testing. 


New C-17 Doubles Edwards Test Fleet


A new Boeing C-17 Globemaster III has arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. , where it will be used exclusively by the Air Force and Boeing to test new and improved systems on the aircraft. The aircraft was delivered Wednesday, July 7.The aircraft, the 121st USAF     C-17 off the Long Beach production line, is the first to go to Edwards on a long-term loan since the initial C-17 test aircraft were sent to the California desert for testing in the early 1990s. Other C-17s have been loaned to Edwards for testing – but for short periods of time. "We're incorporating so many new, enhanced capabilities and customer requirements on the C-17 that one test aircraft was no longer enough to get the job done," said Ned Newman, chief engineer, C-17 Air Vehicle Integrated Product Team. "It's a testament to the C-17's continuous improvements that a second test airplane is needed."  

 The original C-17 test aircraft, known as T-1, has been the only dedicated C-17 over the past 13 years to test new features and capabilities for the advanced airlifter. It's been "over-utilized," another way of saying there's more testing to be done than T-1 can handle alone. Now, with the addition of the newest C-17, there will be two full-time test aircraft. The decision to devote a brand new aircraft off the production line to testing, rather than warfighting, was made jointly by the Air Force's C-17 Systems Program Office, Air Mobility Command and Boeing. It was a significant decision, because it meant AMC was giving up one of its operational aircraft and turning it over to Air Force Material Command, which oversees testing. "Think of it as a short-term sacrifice for the greater good of the C-17 program," said Newman. "We are not building the same aircraft over and over again. With each block of aircraft, the C-17 gets increasingly more capable. And when we incorporate performance improvements, rigorous testing is required to make sure the enhancements are properly integrated into the aircraft's existing systems." A block of aircraft is a specific configuration, a subset of the C-17 fleet with capabilities that are unique to the block.       P-121, the new test aircraft, is the first of 17 C-17s from Block 15. These aircraft, the most modern of the C-17 fleet, represent the first aircraft purchased under the 2002 C-17 multi-year-procurement, in which the Air Force committed $9.7 Billion for 60 C-17s - assuring production through at least 2008.    

"One of the most significant capability enhancements in Block 15 is the new Communications Open System Architecture," said Greg Wildenthaler, leader of the Block 15 integration effort. "This architecture provides secure communication at all crew stations and provides growth capability." Wildenthaler said the new aircraft will be used to test a multitude of new features, systems and capabilities - for Block 16 and future blocks. For example, testing will begin this summer on a new C-17 weather radar system that's part of Block 16. The aircraft will also be used to conduct testing on multiple line replaceable units that have been upgraded to address obsolescence issues, for Blocks 15 and 16 "The customer's requirements for global air traffic management, secure en-route communications and formation flying are causing us to continually update the aircraft," said Vanessa Milburn, Block 16 integration manager. "Managing and integrating these enhancements is a closely coordinated effort that involves multiple Integrated Product Teams." IPTs involved in the C-17 block upgrades include Production, Air Vehicle, Flight Operations, Support Systems, Analysis and Integration, Quality, and Supplier Management.

A team of about 65 Boeing employees support the ongoing C-17 test efforts, working alongside 120 Air Force test personnel stationed at Edwards. This test team, known as the Combined Test Force, has been in place since before the C-17's first flight in September 1991. Boeing and Air Force pilots fly side-by-side throughout the test process. The newest C-17 will remain a test aircraft at Edwards as long as necessary to support Air Mobility Command and the C-17 Systems Program Office objectives. "We hope P-121 will serve to leverage the fantastic intellectual capital of the C-17 Team in getting advanced capabilities into the jet for years to come - well beyond Block 17," said Dave Bowman, vice president and C-17 program manager. "Block 17 gets us to aircraft 180, the end of the current multi-year procurement - and Block 18 will be the first aircraft of the next multi-year procurement contract - for aircraft 181 and beyond." Bowman calls this continuous improvement cycle the key to the C-17's future. "We'll continue to work closely with our customer to improve the C-17 and make sure it remains the world's airlifter of choice," he said.


 412th Test Wing


Established as 412th Fighter Group (Single Engine) on 20 Nov 1943. Activated on 29 Nov 1943. Inactivated on 3 Jul 1946. Redesignated 412th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 Jun 1955. Activated on 18 Aug 1955. Discontinued on 1 Apr 1960. Redesignated 412th Tactical Fighter Group on 31 Jul 1985 but remained inactive. Consolidated (1 Oct 1992) with 6510th Test Wing, which was established, and activated, on 1 Mar 1978. Redesignated 412th Test Wing on 2 Oct 1992.


IV Fighter Command, 29 Nov 1943; 321st Wing, 3 Dec 1945; IV Fighter Command, 28 Jan 1946; Tactical Air Command, 21 Mar 1946; Twelfth Air Force, 15 May–3 Jul 1946. 4708th Air Defense Wing, 18 Aug 1955; 30th Air Division, 8 Jul 1956–1 Apr 1960 (attached to Detroit Air Defense Sector, 1 Apr 1959–1 Apr 1960). Air Force Flight Test Center, 1 Mar 1978–.


Groups. 412th Operations: 1 Oct 1993–. 6545th (later, 545th) Test: 1 Jan 1979–. 6510th (later, 412th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–.

Squadrons. 18th Fighter-Interceptor: 20 Aug 1957–1 Apr 1960. 29th: 21 Jul 1944–3 Jul 1946. 31st Fighter (later, 31st Fighter-Interceptor): 19 Aug 1944– 3 Jul 1946; 8 Jun 1956–20 Aug 1957. 39th Photo (later, 39th Tactical) Reconnaissance: attached 5 Nov 1945–3 Jul 1946. 445th Fighter (later, 445th Fighter-Interceptor): 18 Mar 1944–3 Jul 1946; 18 Aug 1955–1 Apr 1960. 6510th (later, 410th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–1 Oct 1993. 6511th Test: 1 Mar– 1 Jul 1978. 6511th (later, 411th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–1 Oct 1993. 6512th (later, 445th) Test: 1 Mar 1978–1 Oct 1993. 6513th (later, 413th) Test: 1 Mar 1978–1 Oct 1993. 6514th Test: 1 Mar 1978–1 Jan 1979. 6515th (later, 415th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–1 Oct 1993. 6516th (later, 416th) Test: 10 Mar 1989– 1 Oct 1993. 6517th (later, 417th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–1 Oct 1993. 6518th (later, 418th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–1 Oct 1993. 6519th (later, 419th) Test: 10 Mar 1989–1 Oct 1993.

School. USAF Test Pilot: 1 Mar 1978–.

Flight. 11th Crash–Rescue Boat: 18 Aug 1955–8 Dec 1956.


Muroc, CA, 29 Nov 1943; Palmdale AAFld, CA, 1 Jun 1944; Bakersfield Mun Arpt, CA, 11 Oct 1944; Santa Maria AAFld, CA, 10 Jul 1945; March Field, CA, c. 29 Nov 1945–3 Jul 1946. Wurtsmith AFB, MI, 18 Aug 1955– 1 Apr 1960. Edwards AFB, CA, 1 Mar 1978–.


Tested a wide variety of AAF aircraft, 1943–1946. F–89, 1955–1960; T–33, 1955–1960; F/TF–102, 1956–1960; F–101, 1959–1960. From 1978 tested various aircraft types, including A–7, A–10, A–37, B–1, B–2, B–52, C–17, C–23, C/AC/MC/DC/HC/NC–130, NC–131, F–4, F–15, F–16, F–111, HH–60A, HH–53, KC–135, NT–33, T–38, and T–46.


The 412th Fighter Group, first US jet fighter group to be activated, spent most of its early existence in experimental testing of the P–59A and P–80 aircraft. Developed training programs and trained aircrew and ground personnel as cadres for newly formed jet aircraft-equipped units. Inactivated 3 Jul 1946. Activated at Wurtsmith AFB, MI on 18 Aug 1955 with an air defense mission. Initially equipped with F–89 aircraft, the group added F–102s to its inventory in 1956 and F–101s in 1959. Inactivated on 1 Apr 1960. From 1 Mar 1978, the wing managed flight operations for the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, CA. Using a mixed fleet of support aircraft, annually tested both experimental and USAF inventory aircraft, as well as others on loan from US government agencies and foreign governments. Component systems flight-testing included weapons and ordnance, avionics and sensors, flight controls, and aircrew life–support equipment. Operated the Air Force Test Pilot School, training students from around the world. Performed free-flight testing of the Space Transportation System (STS) for NASA, 1978–1980, and in Apr 1981 recovered the shuttle "Columbia" following the first-ever orbital mission of a reusable spacecraft. Continued to provide alternate landing site services for STS recovery. Deployed support personnel and equipment to Southwest Asia, Aug 1990– Mar 1991. While deployed, performed tests on radar and weapons system accuracy. Transitioned into an objective test wing in 1992 to enhance its mission of air vehicle development, testing, and evaluation.


Service Streamers. World War II American Theater.

Campaign Streamers. None.

Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamers. None.

Decorations. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards: 1 Jan 1983–31 Dec 1984; 1 Jan 1985– 31 Dec 1986.


Per bend Celeste and Sable a demi-plate issuant in sinister base, a flight symbol in dexter chief ascending bendwise Argent between a lightning flash bendwise in dexter and a mullet in sinister chief Or: and issuing a contrail arcing to base Gules garnished Yellow surmounting a cloud outline of the first all within a diminished bordure Gold. Approved on 22 May 1957 (157263 AC) and slightly modified on 15 Jun 1994.

418th Flight test squadron history
The McChord Air Museum Foundation
P.O. Box 4205
McChord AFB, WA. 98438-0205
e-mail - mamfound@mcchordairmuseum.org