- "Edwards Tower, this is Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes, inbound from three miles east at 5,000 feet."
- ―James Rhodes
In the 1980s, United States Air Force cooperated with NASA and S.H.I.E.L.D. in a project to research the Tesseract and use it to develop a Light-Speed Engine. Test flights of the Engine were performed in the Edwards Air Force Base by the test pilots Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau.
Tony Stark escaped from his three months kidnapping by the Ten Rings in Afghanistan, when members of the United States Air Force, including his friend James Rhodes, found him wandering the desert. Stark was flown back to Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, where he was greeted by Happy Hogan and a visibly moved Pepper Potts.
Stark declared that Stark Industries would no longer manufacture weapons, and retreated from public view, focusing on the design of an improved armor, refining its size and flight capability, going to Edwards Air Force Base to ask for Rhodes's assistance in the project. Rhodes paused his lesson to a group of airmen to attend Stark, refusing to help in this new project even before Stark had a chance of explaining his idea.
The United States Air Force command center at Edwards Air Force Base detected an unidentified presence in Afghanistan responsible for the attack against the Ten Rings in Gulmira. Major Allen was in charge of the contingency, contacting the United States Department of State, the CIA and the other branches of the United States Armed Forces. Rhodes suspected that Stark was the one responsible for the attacks, while Allen sent two F-22 Raptors with orders to take out the target.
After engaging the F-22s, Stark admitted that what was previously thought as an unmanned aerial vehicle was, in fact, a suit of armor worn by Stark himself and evaded the attacks, but not without being able to prevent a hit against one of the planes. When Stark saved the ejected pilot, the Air Force called off the pursuit. The following day, Rhodes dubbed the incident as an "unfortunate training exercise" in a press conference in Edwards Air Force Base.
Rhodes flew to Edwards Air Force Base using the Iron Man Mark II armor, which he used to stop Stark from putting his guests at risk during a birthday party. Allen greeted Rhodes as he landed while most of the airmen approached to admire the armor. Rhodes presented the armor to Meade, who ordered to summon Justin Hammer to weaponize the armor in order to be presented at the Stark Expo.
Rhodes retired the Arc Reactor from the Mark II so that Hammer could not analyze it, and Hammer arrived, presenting a full array of weapons such as pistols, shotguns, a minigun and an exclusive Sidewinder Self-Guided Missile. Rhodes selected all the weapons presented by Hammer to be incorporated to the armor, and it was upgraded into the "JRXL-1000 Variable Threat Response Battle Suit".