416th Flight Test Squadron
|416th Flight Test Squadron|
416th Flight Test Squadron - General Dynamics F-16C Block 42C Fighting Falcon 88-0445 during a successful AIM-9X test. The Global Power Fighters Combined Test Force here fired the AIM-9X, marking the variant's first guided launch from the aircraft
|Active||1 June 1942 - Present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||Air Force Materiel Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Edwards Air Force Base, California|
|416th Flight Test Squadron emblem|
The 416th Flight Test Squadron (416 FTS) is a United States Air Force squadron. It is assigned to the 412th Operations Group, Air Force Materiel Command, stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
During World War II, the 416th Bombardment Squadron was a B-17 Flying Fortress squadron, assigned to the 99th Bombardment Group, Fifteenth Air Force. It earned Two Distinguished Unit Citations.
The 416th FTS performs flight testing on F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.
World War II
Established in early 1942 as a B-17 Flying Fortress reconnaissance squadron; redesignated as a heavy bomb squadron before activation in June. Trained under II Bomber Command in the Pacific Northwest, being deployed with B-17Es directly to the XII Bomber Command in North Africa shortly after the Operation Torch Landings in March 1943. In Algeria, the squadron engaged in combat operations in support of American ground forces in Algeria and Tunisia during the 1943 North African campaign.
Helped force the capitulation of Pantelleria Island in June 1943. Bombed in preparation for and in support of the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy in the summer and fall of 1943. Was reassigned to the new Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) Fifteenth Air Force in October 1943 and until the German Capitulation in May 1945, engaged in strategic bombardment of enemy targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece, attacking oil refineries, marshaling yards, aircraft factories, and other strategic objectives.
After V-E Day, was assigned to Air Transport Command Green Project which was the movement of troops from Italy to staging areas in Morocco. B-17s were dearmed with flooring and seats for 25 passengers installed. Crew consisted of Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator and Flight Engineer. Carried passengers from Tortorella and later from Marcianise Airfields to Port Lyautey Airfield, French Morocco where ATC transports moved them across the Atlantic or to Dakar for movement via South Atlantic Transport Route.
Squadron was demobilized in Italy in late 1945; inactivated in November. Activated in the reserves in 1947 and possibly assigned some B-29 Superfortresses, however unit never fully equipped or manned. Inactivated in 1949 due to budget restraints.
F-16 Flight Testing
Reactivated for flight testing of the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1989. after an inactivity of 43 years. The unit inherited the role of the 6516th TS that was also based at Edwards AFB. As the 6516th, the 416th was tasked with testing different weapon systems and specialized equipment on the F-16 and therefore a number of different blocks were in the inventory, ranging from the early block 1 versions over the block 15 ADF to the later advanced block 50 versions and everything in between. This setup might be seen as a logistical nightmare, but it did provide the squadron a valuable asset in conducting the mission it was set out to perform.
Weapons testing forms only a small part of the unit’s task. Mostly any weapons testing is conducted together with the Eglin AFB based testing squadrons. Some F-16s are painted in a regular gray USAF scheme for the purpose of weapons testing. But more exotic colour schemes can be spotted on the Edwards tarmac amongst the resident F-16s. Mostly they are the famous white birds with the red tails and ventral fins. These aircraft are very often used as so-called chase planes for other aircraft test programs.
A variety of 416th FLTS F-16s are used to chase F-22s and F-35s on regular bases. Therefore these aircraft are also relocated to other airbases all over the country, mostly going to Eglin AFB for testing assistance or to Fort Worth JRB for assistance to the Lockheed F-35 program.
Another role these aircraft are often used for is test pilot training. The 416th FLTS is the only USAF unit to have the permission to train fully qualified test pilots for other USAF programs. Pilots are selected on individual bases and personal skills being able to perform such a demanding task.
In the 1990s the 416th helped in the development of the MLU upgrade package for older (mainly European NATO countries’) F-16A/B models. The USAF eventually didn’t get involved in the production process but did provide test aircraft #80-584 for this purpose. It is still flying with the squadron until this day to test further enhancement packages for both MLU Vipers as for the USAF CCIP program
In a rather unusual but beneficial move during early 2009, the squadron deployed to Nellis AFB, Nevada where the squadron participated in a Red Flag exercise. This was the first of this type of deployment for any Air Force Material Command unit. Red Flag 09-2 ran from January 26 to February 6, 2009. Reason behind the deployment was to perform some operational testing for the latest operating system M5.1+ software which is specific for the F-16. The squadron took five aircraft all equipped with this latest software and in the end flew 54 sorties.
The success of the first deployment for Red Flag was such that another was organized for deployment from January 23 to February 4, 2012. A very similar deployment, this time to test software for the 6.1+ operating system. The new software allows several improvements of which the ability to carry the Small Diameter Bomb. This will allow the F-16 to carry more numerically and deliver this munitions from father away. Although primary deployed to test, the 416th was also a participant with one pilot taking top SEAD pilot.
- Constituted as: 26th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942
- Redesignated: 416th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 22 Apr 1942
- Activated on 1 Jun 1942
- Redesignated: 416th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, on 20 Aug 1943
- Inactivated on 8 Nov 1945
- Redesignated: 416th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy, on 3 Jul 1947
- Activated in the Reserve on 17 Jul 1947
- Inactivated on 27 Jun 1949
- Consolidated (1 Oct 1992) with 6516th Test Squadron
- Designated, and activated, on 10 Mar 1989
- Redesignated: 416th Test Squadron on 2 Oct 1992
- Redesignated: 416th Flight Test Squadron on 1 Mar 1994.
- 99th Bombardment Group, 1 Jun 1942-8 Nov 1945; 17 Jul 1947-27 Jun 1949
- 6510th (later, 412th) Test Wing, 10 Mar 1989
- 412th Operations Group, 1 Oct 1993–Present
- B-17 Flying Fortress, 1942–1945
- B-29 Superfortress, 1947-1949
- F-16 Fighting Falcon, 1989–Present
- F-15A/B/C/D/E Eagle/Strike Eagle, 2004-2005
- List of United States Air Force test squadrons
- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations
- Rogers, Brian. United States Air Force Unit Designations since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, AL: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.