August 20, 1946: Army Air Forces’ Future Flight-Test Needs

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  • US Army Air Forces

Colonel Signa A. Gilkey, Muroc Army Air Field commander, submitted to SBAMA the Land Purchase Requirements necessary to accommodate the Army Air Forces’ future flight-test needs. Approximately 190 square miles of additional private land adjoining the base on the north, west, and south would be required for a new main runway that could be extended to 18 miles. It also provided for safety air clearance zones, a new housing area located a secure distance from flying activities, and for moving the railroad crossing Rogers Dry Lake.

The first major aerial activity occurred at Muroc in 1937 when the entire Army Air Corps participated in a large-scale maneuver. From then on, the bombing range grew in size.  When Arnold became Chief of the Air Corps in 1938, the service was given a renewed focus on research and development. Muroc Field drew attention, because the nearby dry lake was so flat (Arnold described it as "level as a billiard table that it could serve as a giant runway, ideal for flight testing. Over $120 million was spent to develop the base in the 1940s and expand it to 301,000 acres. The base's main 15,000-foot runway was completed in a single pour of concrete.

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