The US Air Force (USAF) will upgrade the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC), headquartered at Arnold Air Force Base, and home of some of the US military’s most advanced missile and aircraft test sites, in a $3.8bn programme of work due to last for more than a decade.

According to the USAF the AEDC missile and aircraft test site operates more than 68 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels, rocket and turbine engine test cells, environmental chambers, arc heaters, ballistic ranges, sled tracks, centrifuges, and other specialised units, intended to test and simulate speed, temperature, pressure and other parameters of development aircraft.

Facilities can simulate flight conditions from sea level to 300 miles – effectively the lower stages of low Earth orbit – and from subsonic velocities to Mach 20.

The AEDC is described by the USAF as “an important national resource”, having contributed to the development of “practically every one of the nation’s top priority aerospace programmes”, including the Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, and Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, plus the Tomahawk cruise missile, among others.

The site has also contributed to the development of the crewed military aircraft, such as the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, the F-22A Raptor air dominance fighter, as well as the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

In a 15 March contract notice, the US Department of Defense (DoD) stated that the 12-year contract will provide test operations, technology development, equipment and facility sustainment, capital improvements and support services for the AEDC, with an expected completion date of 30 September 2036.

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The DoD stated that work will be performed at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee; National Full Scale Aerodynamics Complex, Mountain View, California; White Oak, Maryland; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The contract was awarded to little-known Beyond New Horizons, based out of Huntsville, Alabama.