576th Flight Test Squadron

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576th Flight Test Squadron
LGM-30G Minuteman III test launch.jpg
576th FLTS LGM-30G Minuteman III test launch at Vandenberg AFB, California, 25 February 2012
Active 1943-1966; 1991-present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Squadron
Role Intercontinental ballistic missile
Garrison/HQ Vandenberg AFB, California
Engagements European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer.jpg
World War II (EAME Theater)
Decorations Streamer PUC Army.PNG
Distinguished Unit Citation
US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Insignia
576th Flight Test Squadron emblem 576th Flight Test Squadron.jpg
Consolidated B-24H-15-CF Liberator 41-29433 576th Bomb Squadron, 392nd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force

The 576th Flight Test Squadron (576 FLTS) is a United States Air Force direct reporting unit (DRU) assigned to Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). The 576 FLTS is stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Overview[edit]

The mission of the 576 FLTS is to execute Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Development Evaluation program for America's Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force and serve as the command's experts for missile systems capability and Air Force application demonstrations.

In executing the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Initial Operational Test and Evaluation and Force Development Evaluation programs, the 576th Flight Test Squadron prepares for and conducts ground and flight tests to collect, analyze, and report performance, accuracy, and reliability data for the Joint Staff, USSTRATCOM, Air Staff, and AFGSC. The 576th Flight Test Squadron identifies missile system requirements, demonstrates current and future war fighting capabilities, and validates missile system improvements and upgrades.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

The 576th Flight Test Squadron was first activated at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, on 26 January 1943 as the 576th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) where it participated in the strategic bombardment campaigns of Europe and Germany as part of Eighth Air Force. Their involvement during the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge resulted in seven European-African-Middle Eastern Theater campaign streamers and one Distinguished Unit Citation.

The 576th was inactivated on 13 September 1945 with the close of World War II. It was reactivated on 24 September 1947 as a very heavy bombardment squadron at Barksdale Field Louisiana, the squadrons mission was changed in November 1947 to a light jet bomber squadron. It was again inactivated in November 1949.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Squadron[edit]

The squadron was reactivated on 6 March 1958 as the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS) assigned to Cooke Air Force Base (later renamed Vandenberg AFB). On 1 April 1958, the 576th was assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an SM-65 Atlas ICBM unit, the nation's first ICBM unit.

Initially, the 576th operated launch sites 576 Alpha 1, 2 and 3, which consisted of open support towers with SM-65D Atlas ICBMS standing in the open. The open launch pads remained on nuclear alert until 1 May 1964. In the spring of 1960, began using the "coffin" type shelters and missile erectors at Vandenberg Baker pads 1,2, and 3 along with 576 Charlie, Foxtrot and Golf that were used as a testing pad for the operational testing of the SM-65E Atlas and site 576 D for Atlas F operational testing.

The squadron went off ICBM nuclear alert duties with the inactivation of Alpaha 1,2 and 3, however it continued operational testing of the Atlas ICBM until 1965 when the weapons system was retired and the missiles sent to Norton AFB California for long term storage and use as satellite launch vehicles for NASA.

On 2 April 1966, the 576th was once again inactivated.

ICBM Testing Squadron[edit]

Re-designated the 576th Test Squadron on 29 August 1991, it was again activated on 1 September 1991 as part of the activation of the Twentieth Air Force, America's only ICBM numbered Air Force. The 576th designation was chosen to ensure the history and lineage of the 576th would continue with the important job of testing ICBMs. The 576th has almost made a complete circle since the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron tested the Atlas missile in the late 50's and early 60's. In July 1993, the 576th was assigned to the Fourteenth Air Force at Vandenberg AFB. The squadron was re-designated the 576th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) on 1 July 1994. Then, on 22 February 1996 the squadron was reassigned from the Fourteenth Air Force to Space Warfare Center (SWC) at Schriever AFB, Colorado.

On 14 March 1996, the 576th, the 30th Maintenance Squadron (MXS), and portions of the 30th Logistics Squadron (LSS) merged to form the new 576 FLTS. Whereas the three organizations previously reported, through different commanders, to the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB, this merger aligned all personnel directly involved with Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) testing at Vandenberg under one commander. As part of the merger, the 576 FLTS also became a direct reporting unit to the Space Warfare Center, which later became the Space Innovation & Development Center (SIDC).

On December 1, 2009 the 576 FLTS was reassigned, along with the Air Force's ICBM mission, to Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

Lineage[edit]

  • Constituted 576 Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 15 January 1943
Activated on 26 January 1943
Re-designated 576 Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 13 September 1945
  • Re-designated 576 Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy, on 5 September 1947
Activated in the Reserve on 24 September 1947
Re-designated 576 Bombardment Squadron, Light, Jet, on 27 June 1949
Inactivated on 10 November 1949
  • Re-designated 576 Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Atlas) on 6 March 1958
Activated on 1 April 1958
Discontinued, and inactivated, on 2 April 1966
  • Re-designated 576 Test Squadron on 29 August 1991
Activated on 1 September 1991
Re-designated 576 Flight Test Squadron on 1 July 1994

Assignments[edit]

Stations[edit]

Aircraft and missiles[edit]

Operated Five missile sites (9 total missiles):
576-A (3 SM-65D, 1960-1965), 5.7 mi SW of Casmalia CA, 34°46′42″N 120°36′00″W / 34.77833°N 120.60000°W / 34.77833; -120.60000 (576-A)
576-B (3 SM-65D, 1959-1967), 4.8 mi SW of Casmalia CA, 34°47′31″N 120°35′44″W / 34.79194°N 120.59556°W / 34.79194; -120.59556 (576-B)
576-C (1 SM-65E, Jul-Sep 1963), 3.7 mi WxSW of Casmalia CA, 34°48′31″N 120°35′01″W / 34.80861°N 120.58361°W / 34.80861; -120.58361 (576-C)
576-D (1 SM-65F, 1963-1964), 1.9 mi SW of Casmalia CA, 34°49′13″N 120°33′25″W / 34.82028°N 120.55694°W / 34.82028; -120.55694 (576-D)
576-E (1 SM-65F, 1962-1964), 4.8 mi8.5 mi SW of Casmalia CA, 34°44′22″N 120°37′08″W / 34.73944°N 120.61889°W / 34.73944; -120.61889 (576-E)
576-F (operational test site for the Atlas E (OSTF 1), 4.3 miles SW of Casmalia CA, 34°47′46″N 120°35′20″W / 34.79611°N 120.58889°W / 34.79611; -120.58889 (576-F)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links[edit]