420th Flight Test Flight
|420th Flight Test Flight|
420th Flight Test Flight - T-38 Talon
|Active||3 February 1942 - 31 October 2007|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||Air Force Reserve Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Arizona|
|420th Flight Test Flight emblem|
|420th FLTF T-38 Talon Avionics Upgrade Program emblem|
The 420th Flight Test Flight (420 FLTF) is an inactive United States Air Force Reserve squadron. It was last assigned to the 413th Flight Test Group, Air Force Reserve Command, stationed at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Arizona. It was inactivated on 31 October 2007.
World War II 
Established in mid-1943 as a defensive Night Fighter interceptor squadron at the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics (AAFSAT), Orlando Army Air Base, Florida. Night fighter combat over the skies of England made the USAAF aware of the need for night air defense training and tactics development.
The Third Air Force was ordered to develop a training program to produce pilots with night fighting skills. The 420th Night Fighter Squadron was designated as the Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Orlando for the training program.
AAFSAT immediate requirement was to train night fighter pilots for two operational squadrons that were destined for Hawaii and one for Panama. However the training program could not initially be carried out due to a lack of training aircraft. The school acquired a collection of aircraft from Training Command, however only a few P-70 Havocs were modified for night operations. Production delays at Northrup for the P-61 Night Widow fighter aircraft led the unit to use what it had until the first YP-61s were received in early 1944.
In January 1944, the entire program was moved to Hammer Field, California and placed under IV Fighter Command. The reasons for this was that most programmed P-61 squadrons were planned for operations in the Pacific Theater and CBI, as well as the proximity of Hammer Field to the Northrop manufacturing facility at Hawthorne, California.
In March 1944 the 420th was inactivated during a reorganization of Training Schools in the United States. The personnel and equipment were placed under the 450th Army Air Force Base Unit "A Squadron".
Night fighter training, as part of the realm of night fighting, was a pioneering effort during World War II. The units accomplished what they did because of the courage and farsightedness of men in this new field of combat with limited resources and support.
Cold War 
Re-activated in 1954 by Tactical Air Command to provide dedicated in flight refueling, initially for F-84s and later for other in-flight refueling capable TAC fighter and fighter bombers. The 420th was the first dedicated TAC aerial refueling squadron when activated at Alexandria AFB, Louisiana. The squadron received KB-29Ps fitted with the refueling boom.
In 1955, the unit was deployed to the United States Air Forces in Europe, based at RAF Sculthorpe, Norfolk, England, to provide air refueling for USAFE squadrons; it began re-equipping with the KB-50 Superfortress in 1957 which provided greater speed to refuel jet aircraft. KB-50s were modified to KB-50J configuration in 1958 which added a J-47 turbojet engine underneath each wing in place of the auxiliary fuel tanks to increase the speed of the aircraft. The KB-29P was phased out in 1958.
By 1963 aircraft were phased out due to age and being replaced by SAC KC-97 and KC-135s; squadron inactivated in early 1964 when KB-50Js sent to AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB.
B-2 Sprirt Flight Testing 
Re-activated in March 1989 as the 6520th Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, California. Its mission was the pre-operational testing of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The B-2 was first revealed to the public on 22 November 1988, when AV-1 (82-1066 *Spirit of America*) was unveiled at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. At this time, the aircraft was still not ready for its first flight. Taxi tests began on 10 July 1989. The B-2 finally made its first flight on 17 July 1989 from Palmdale. It lasted 112 minutes and ended with a landing at Edwards AFB and delivery to the 6520th TS.
After carrying out initial tests, AV-1 was used for radar cross section tests. In early 1993, AV-1 was placed in long term storage to await upgrading to full service configuration prior to joining the operational fleet. The second test aircraft (AV-2, 82-1067 *Spirit of Arizona*) flew for the first time on 19 October 1990 from Palmdale, landing at Edwards AFB. It was heavily instrumented and served as the loads test aircraft.
AV-3 (82-1068 *Spirit of New York*) took to the air for the first time on 18 June 1991. It was the first radar and navigation test aircraft. AV-4 (82-1069 *Spirit of Indiana*) followed on 17 April 1992, and AV-5 (82-1070 *Spirit of Ohio*) on 5 October 1992. These two planes were used for avionics and weapons testing. The first bomb to be tested with the B-2 was a 2000-lb Mk 84, which was dropped from AV-4 on 12 September 1992. AV-5 was the intended for armament, climactic, and low-observability testing.
On 2 October 1992, the Air Force Systems Command 6520th Test Squadron was inactivated and replaced by the new Air Materiel Command 420th Test Squadron. The 6520th TS was consolidated into the 420th to preserve its lineage and history.
The last development aircraft, AV-6 (82-1071 *Spirit of Mississippi*) flew on 2 February 1993. It was used for Tech order validation and fur further weapons and avionics testing. By January 1995, the six FSD B-2s had logged more than 2300 hours in the air in more than 490 flights. Terrain-following certification flights were undertaken by AV-4 in September 1996. By January 1997, the B-2 had reached limited operational capability and testing at Edwards was phased down. The B-2 flight testing was transferred and incorporated into the 419th Flight Test Squadron and the squadron was inactivated at the end of 1997.
T-38 Talon Flight Testing 
Reactivated in 2001 at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Airzona (formerly Williams AFB). Reduced from a squadron to a flight organization as a T-38 Talon Functional Check Flight organization. The 420th was originally stood up in May 2000 and organized as the 622d Regional Support Group, Operating Location E. After the 413th Flight Test Group was created at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, the unit was renamed and activated under the group in August 2001.
The unit supported the T-38C avionics upgrade program by flying depot-level test sorties and acceptance check flights after the cockpit upgrades were completed. In addition, pilots would pick up aircraft and bring them to Mesa for upgrade at a Boeing facility and then deliver them after the work was complete. 
Inactivated on 30 October 2007 due to budget reductions.
- Constituted 420th Night Fighter Squadron on 25 May 1943
- Activated on 1 June 1943
- Disbanded on 31 March 1944
- Re-constituted, and consolidated (19 September 1985) with the 420th Air Refueling Squadron, Fighter-Bomber
- Constituted on 8 December 1953
- Activated on 18 March 1954
- Re-designated 420th Air Refueling Squadron, Tactical on 8 August 1958
- Discontinued, and inactivated, on 25 March 1964
- Consolidated (1 October 1992) with the 6520th Test Squadron
- Designated, and activated, on 10 March 1989
- Re-designated: 420th Test Squadron on 2 October 1992
- Re-designated: 420th Flight Test Squadron on 1 March 1994
- Inactivated on 30 December 1997
- Re-designated 420th Flight Test Flight on 24 September 2001
- Activated in the Reserve on 1 October 2001
- Inactivated on 31 October 2007.
- Air Defense Department, Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics, 1 June 1943
- Attached to: 481st Night Fighter Operational Training Group, 17-25 July 1943
- Attached to: 481st Night Fighter Operational Training Group, 26 July 1943-31 March 1944
- Ninth Air Force, 18 March 1954
- Attached to: 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 18 March 1954-22 September 1955
- Third Air Force, 9 October 1955
- Attached to: 47th Bombardment Wing, 15 March 1960-1 July 1961
- Seventeenth Air Force, 1 July 1961
- Remained attached to 47th Bombardment Wing
- Attached to: 7375th Combat Support Group, unknown-30 September 1962
- 7375th Combat Support Group, 1 October 1962-25 March 1964
- 6510th (later, 412th) Test Group, 10 March 1989-30 December 1997
- 622d Flight Test Group, 1 October 2001
- 413th Flight Test Group, 1 October 2003-31 October 2007
See also 
- Pape, Garry R., John M. and Donna Campbell. Northrop P-61 Black Widow: The Complete History and Combat Record. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1991. ISBN 0-87938-509-X.
- TacTankers.com - 420th Air Refueling Squadron
- Baugher, Northrop B-2A Spirit
- B-2 Spirit serial number search
- Flight test unit closes its doors.
- AFHRA 420th Flight Test Flight lineage and history