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T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainers fly over Edwards Air Force Base in eastern Kern County.

Edwards Air Force Base in eastern Kern County, the second-largest base in the U.S. Air Force, will be the site of a $36.4 million project awarded last week by the U.S. Department of Defense, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The project involves the design and construction of a new flight test engineering laboratory, an effort authorized and funded at the request of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, McCarthy's office said in a news release Thursday.

The project modernizes test, evaluation and development capabilities at Edwards in order for the Defense Department to maintain cutting-edge technology and weapons systems, the release said.

Estimated completion for the project is fall 2023.

According to a spokesman for the 412th Test Wing, the host wing for Edwards, the test wing has a long history of development and testing, not only for the Air Force, but for other branches of the armed forces.

The 412th plans, conducts, analyzes and reports on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapons systems, software and components as well as modeling and simulation for the Air Force, according to the test wing's website. The three core components for its mission are flying operations, maintenance and engineering.

Through a maintenance group of more than 2,000 people and an operations group of 3,000, the test wing maintains and flies an average of 90 aircraft with upwards of 30 different aircraft designs, and performs more than 7,400 missions annually.

The Test Pilot School at Edwards, also part of the test wing, is where the Air Force's top pilots, navigators and engineers learn to conduct flight tests and generate the data needed to carry out test missions.

The Engineering Division and the Electronic Warfare Division provide the central components in the conduct of the test and evaluation mission.

Rounding out the test wing are the Project and Resource Management divisions, which provide the foundation for the management of test missions.

The Edwards flightline itself is proudly known as the "Center of the Aeronautical Universe."

McCarthy released the following statement regarding the award:

"Edwards Air Force Base has served as the epitome of technological advancements within our military for generations, and this new flight testing laboratory will help to ensure this legacy of innovation will continue.

"Through this project, the development of this state-of-the-art complex, which is critical to the 412th Test Wing’s mission, will improve flight test activities and enhance recruiting, training, and retention efforts to bolster our talented workforce at Edwards.

"With emerging national security threats and the increased complexity of integrating advanced technology, it is important for the men and women working at Edwards to have the necessary infrastructure to effectively test and evaluate weapon systems that will help protect our nation."

According to a Department of Defense list of contracts, Korte Construction Co., of St. Louis, was awarded the contract to build the facility at Edwards.

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