Tullahoma has always held an important place in our nation’s history. After Tennessee obtained statehood in 1796, the railroad was extended into the area and Tullahoma became an important stop between Nashville and Chattanooga. The construction of the railroad was key to the city’s growth, and it was officially chartered in 1852.

In the last 170+ years, Tullahoma has become well known, not only for its rich history and charming community but also for being home to one of the state’s most significant technological assets: the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC), located at Arnold Air Force Base.


The Jewel of Tullahoma: Arnold Engineering Development Complex

Spanning an impressive 40,000 acres across Coffee and Franklin Counties, Arnold Air Force Base is a key player in our nation’s aerospace advancements and a vital part of the local community, employing approximately 3,000 people.

At the heart of the base lies the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC), one of the world’s most advanced and largest complex of flight simulation test facilities. On June 25, 1951, President Harry Truman dedicated the new AEDC in memory of General Henry “Hap” Arnold, father of the U.S. Air Force. Arnold had pushed for the establishment of the test complex so that America would never fall behind in aerospace testing again.

President Truman famously said in his 1951 speech, “The scientists who work here will explore what lies on the other side of the speed of sound. This is part of our effort to make our air power the best in the world — and to keep it the best in the world. This applies to the planes of the Air Force, the Navy and our Marines. It applies to our guided missiles and all the future developments that science may bring.”

Photo Credit: Arnold Engineering Development Complex


The AEDC’s primary function is to test and evaluate aircraft, missile and space systems for the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and other entities. With nearly 70 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels, as well as highly advanced rocket and turbine engine test cells, space environmental chambers, arc heaters, ballistic ranges and other specialized units, the AEDC provides critical data that helps advance aerospace technology and ensures it meets the highest standards of performance and safety. Tennessee’s aerospace and defense cluster includes more than 100 establishments, and the AEDC has played a major part in attracting many of those to our state.


The AEDC is one of the largest employers in its region, providing high-paying jobs to thousands of skilled workers, including engineers, technicians and support staff. The demand for specialized skills promotes local education and collaborations with institutions like the University of Tennessee Space Institute, which is less than five miles down the road. Partnerships like this ensure a steady pipeline of qualified professionals and enhance the region’s workforce quality.


With a current replacement value of $11.3 billion, the complex has contributed to the development of practically every one of the nation’s top priority aerospace programs including the Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, the space shuttle, space station and projects such as Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Facilities within the AEDC can simulate flight conditions from sea level to 300 miles and from subsonic velocities, less than 250 miles per hour, to Mach 20, more than 15,300 miles per hour. The facility’s cutting-edge research and development efforts not only contribute to national security and scientific advancement but also cement Tullahoma’s reputation as a hub of technological excellence.


A Community Thriving with Innovation and Tradition

Tullahoma’s identity is deeply intertwined with the presence of the AEDC, but the city offers much more than its aerospace legacy. The local community enjoys a rich cultural scene, beautiful parks and a variety of recreational activities. The historic downtown area is also a hub of activity with unique shops, restaurants and events that bring the community together.

As Tullahoma looks to the future, the community’s continued collaboration with the AEDC will unlock new opportunities and solidify the area’s standing as a leader in aerospace innovation.

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