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The 370th Flight Test Squadron: Reserve unit provides unique support to Edwards mission

  • Published
  • By Giancarlo Casem

While the active-duty 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, has been known to fly some unique aircraft throughout the years, it has also relied on a unique unit to help accomplish the ever-changing flight test mission: the Air Force Reserve’s 370th Flight Test Squadron.

The 412th Test Wing is charged with planning, conducting, analyzing and reporting on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapon systems, software and components for the Air Force. The 370th Flight Test Squadron supports the 412th Test Wing by providing vital aerial refueling operations during test flights and by embedding seasoned Reserve pilots into 412th flight test squadrons.

“In a typical F-35 test mission, we’ll get maybe two hours of flight testing without a tanker,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Bearce, a Reserve pilot assigned to the 370th FLTS. “If we have tankers, we can extend that to three to three and a half hours, sometimes even five hours.”

Flying the KC-135 Stratotanker, Reservists assigned to the 370th FLTS help extend the length of critical test flights. The 370th also bridges the gap between active-duty and Reserve pilots, ensuring collaboration and understanding between units.

Bearce, for example, is an F-35 and F-16 test pilot who falls administratively under the 370th FLTS but flies predominantly with the active-duty 461st Flight Test Squadron.

“That’s what makes us very unique,” Bearce said. “We have boom operators for the refuelers, we have the KC-135 pilots, and then we have the test pilots to augment into that squadron who fly the opposite of the KC-135 and fly a lot of the fighter units.”

The variety of missions and the squadron’s diverse responsibilities, including providing support for other airframes on base conducting their own testing has been a highlight for Master Sgt. Brittany Garland, a boom operator with the 370th.

“Aerial refueling is something that is very necessary for a lot of the different smaller fighter jets or bombers that need to be airborne for an extended period of time,” she said. “They’re unable to do that unless they get fuel while they’re orbiting around in the sky waiting to do their next mission or in between missions.”

Garland’s dual expertise as an air traffic controller in her civilian career enables her to provide valuable support to pilots and gain a comprehensive understanding of aviation operations.

She added that the 370th’s mission variety provides a challenging, yet rewarding experience.

“The other bases I’ve been to have a very small handful of aircraft you get to refuel, but here it’s something different every single day,” Garland said. “If you want more of a variety, this is where you would want to be because it’s unlike anywhere. It’s something different all the time, and it’s exciting.”

Both Bearce and Garland emphasize the importance of balancing military service with civilian careers, showcasing the versatility and commitment of military Reservists. They are just two members of the 370th FLTS, however their stories show a commonality with the rest of the squadron, and that is the professionalism needed to provide support for the various test missions and requirements on Edwards.

(Casem is assigned to the 412th Test Wing public affairs office.)