Air Force Reserve unit provides full-time support to flight test

  • Published
  • By Giancarlo Casem
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

While 412th Test Wing has been known to fly unique aircraft throughout the years, it has also relied on a unique unit within their squadron to accomplish the ever-changing flight test mission: the 370th Flight Test Squadron.

The 370th Flight Test Squadron is an Air Force Reserve unit at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The unit is unique in that not only does it provided a vital support role with aerial refueling operations, but they also support flight test operations by assigning Reserve test pilots into active duty flight test squadrons, greatly increasing a flight test squadron’s capability said Lt. Col. Jonathan Bearce, 370th FLTS.

"In a typical F-35 test mission, we'll get maybe two hours of flight testing without a tanker. If we have tankers, we can extend that to three to three and a half hours, sometimes even five hours," Bearce states.

Bearce, an F-35 and F-16 test pilot, brings nearly nine years of experience to his role within the squadron. Bearce explained that the squadron's key mission of aerial refueling with KC-135 enhances mission efficiency by extending flight testing durations. He added that the 370th also bridges gaps between active duty and reservist pilots, ensuring collaboration and understanding between units. In his particular case, although the 370th FLTS handles Bearce’s administrative requirements, he flies predominantly with the 461st FLTS as an F-35 test pilot.

“That's what makes us very unique: we have boom operators for the refuelers, we have the KC-135 pilots, and 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," Garland explains. "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 also stated 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.