EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE – Innovation conducted and put into the field at “the speed of relevance” are essential to the Air Force’s future and Edwards Air Force Base will play a big part in that future. Air Force Materiel Command Commander Gen. Arnold Bunch., Headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, is responsible for mission support, discovery and development, test and evaluation, life cycle management services and sustainment of virtually every major Air Force weapon system. He was at Edwards Oct. 18 for a site visit.
Bunch says he finds it reinvigorating to visit Edwards - a place he’s called home several times throughout his 35-year career.
“The visit’s been great and what always makes it great coming out here is talking to the airmen,” said Bunch. “They’re highly motivated and want to get the mission done, that’s something that’s been a legacy and has just continued.”
Edwards will continue to play a pivotal role in the Air Force’s mission, he said.
“The mission here is going to be critical to what we’re driving for in the Air Force,” said Bunch.
“When we look at the B-21, which we’ve talked about coming here and you look at the work they’re going to do on the T7. We’re still continuing to do work on a lot of the platforms as we drive to the Air Force we need.”
The T-7A Redhawk is the advanced pilot training system while the B-21 Raider is a heavy bomber still under development.
“The National Defense Strategy came out last year and it had the three main lines of effort that we were talking about,” said Bunch. “To increase readiness and lethality and strengthen our allies and partners and it had smart business and being wise with our money.
“The real drive was to get technology into the field at the speed of relevance. That was one of the big drives, because we are in a competition and we need to go faster and a lot of areas.”
The Air Force did an analysis to look at the missions they were going to be expected to handle and what does that really mean to the future of the Air Force. The answer was bigger, better and faster.
“We need a bigger Air Force to be able to execute what the nation is asking us to do,” said Bunch.
To accomplish their goal, the Air Force determined it would need 386 operational squadrons.
“That means we’ve got to buy more hardware, we’ve got to buy more equipment,” said Bunch. “That’s where AFMC becomes really critical.”
Edwards is equally critical to that success, he said.
“If we want to put technology into the field at the speed of relevance - meaning I can’t have technology become available today and take 10 years to put into the field - we have to look at how do we incrementally put things out. How do we change the way we do tests so that we’re testing thoroughly enough that we know how it’s going to perform when he gets out in the field, but also so that we’re moving to keep it relevant to the warfighter.”
The test community at Edwards will be called on to help move development forward.
“Because as the technology flows in here, we have trained testers who can determine if it’s going to perform the way that we expected to do and let the operator who’s in the field, understand how it’s going to perform and what they should expect,” said Bunch. “So they play a critical role in that linkage. The test community is integral to all those efforts to support what we need to do.”
Bunch assumed command of Air Force Materiel Command in May and served at Edwards six times, most recently as Commander, Air Force Test Center from June 2012 to June 2015. He is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in the B-52, B-2, KC-135, F-16, T-38 and other aircraft.