576th Flight Test Squadron

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576th Flight Test Squadron
LGM-30G Minuteman III test launch.jpg
576th Squadron LGM-30G Minuteman III test launch at Vandenberg AFB, California, 25 February 2012
Active1943–1945; 1947–1949; 1958–1966; 1991-present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleIntercontinental ballistic missile
Part ofAir Force Space Command
Garrison/HQVandenberg AFB, California
Motto(s)Ducimus Latin We Lead
EngagementsEuropean Theater of Operations[1]
DecorationsStreamer PUC Army.PNG
Distinguished Unit Citation
US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award[1]
576th Flight Test Squadron emblem (approved 2 March 1995)[1]576th Flight Test Squadron.jpg
Patch eith 576th Strategic Missile Squadron emblem (approved 5 March 1959[2]576th Strategic Missile Squadron - Emblem.png

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


The mission of the 576th is to execute Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC)'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, United States Strategic Command, 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.


World War II[edit]

576th Bomb Squadron B-24H Liberator[note 1]

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 squadron's 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 at Cooke Air Force Base (later renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base). On 1 April 1958, the 576th was assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an SM-65 Atlas ICBM unit, the nation's first ICBM unit. The squadron became the first SAC unit to place an ICBM on alert, when it placed one of its Atlas D missiles on alert on 31 October 1959 at Vandenberg.[3]

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 Alpha 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 Air Force Base 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]

Redesignated 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 Air Force Base, Colorado.

On 14 March 1996, the 576th, the 30th Maintenance Squadron and portions of the 30th Logistics Support Squadron 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).


  • Constituted as the 576th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 15 January 1943
Activated on 26 January 1943
Redesignated 576th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 13 September 1945
  • Redesignated 576th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 5 September 1947
Activated in the reserve on 24 September 1947
Redesignated 576th Bombardment Squadron, Light, Jet on 27 June 1949
Inactivated on 10 November 1949
  • Redesignated 576th Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Atlas) on 6 March 1958
Activated on 1 April 1958
Discontinued and inactivated on 2 April 1966
  • Redesignated 576th Test Squadron on 29 August 1991
Missile maintenance technicians from the 576th Flight Test Squadron works on a Minuteman III component at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 3, 2014. The Minuteman III is regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg in order to validate the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system, as well as to support the system's primary purpose - nuclear deterrence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/RELEASED)
Activated on 1 September 1991
Redesignated 576th Flight Test Squadron on 1 July 1994[1]



Aircraft and missiles[edit]

  • 576-A, 5.6 mi SW of Casmalia CA,
  • Also known as 4300 A-1 / Advanced Ballistic Re-entry System (ABRES) A-1 / Ballistic Missile Re-entry System (BMRS) A-1
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65D
  • Test launches: 18xSM-65D (1959–66), 16xSM-65F (1967–76), 1xSM-65E (1968), 1xSM-65-Burner-2 (1972)
  • Also known as 4300 A-2 / BMRS A-2
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65D
  • Test launches: 1xSM-65D (1959), 13xSM-65F (1965–71)
  • Also known as 4300 A-3 / BMRS A-3
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65D
  • Test launches: 10xSM-65D (1960–75), 21xSM-65F (1965–74), 2xSM-65E (1968)
  • 576-B, 4.7 mi SW of Casmalia CA,
  • Also known as ABRES B-1
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65D
  • Test launches: 13xSM-65D (1960–66)
  • Also known as ABRES B-2
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65D
  • Test launches: 26xSM-65D (1960–67)
  • Also known as ABRES B-3
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65D
  • Test launches: 23xSM-65D (1960–67)
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65E
  • Test launches: 3xSM-65E (Jul–Sep 1963)
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65F
  • Test launches: 2xSM-65F (1963–64)
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65F / 1xTaurus (1110, 2110, 3110, 3210) / 1xTaurus Lite
  • Test launches: 4xSM-65F (1962–64), 10xTaurus (1994–2011)
  • Also known as SM-65E Operational System Test Facility (65-OSTF-1)
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65E
  • Test launches: 2xSM-65E (Feb–Aug 1964)
  • Also known as SM-65F 65-OSTF-2
  • Design capacity: 1xSM-65F
  • Test launches: 2xSM-65F (1964–65)

See also[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX



Explanatory notes
  1. ^ Aircraft is Consolidated B-24H-15-CF Liberator, serial 41-29433.
  1. ^ a b c d Bailey, Carl E. (May 16, 2008). "Factsheet 576 Flight Test Squadron (AFSPC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  2. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 669-670
  3. ^ Narducci, p. 3
  4. ^ Assignment information through May 2008 in Robertson.
  5. ^ Station number in Anderson.
  6. ^ Station information in Robertson, except as noted.
  7. ^ "Vandenberg Air Force Base". asuwlink.uwyo.edu. Archived from the original on 25 July 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Vandenberg Air Force Base launch complexes and facilities". afspacemuseum.org. Air Force Space and Missile Museum. Retrieved 26 September 2014.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External links[edit]