576th Flight Test Squadron
|576th Flight Test Squadron|
576th FLTS LGM-30G Minuteman III test launch at Vandenberg AFB, California, 25 February 2012
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Role||Intercontinental ballistic missile|
|Garrison/HQ||Vandenberg AFB, California|
World War II (EAME Theater)
Distinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
|576th Flight Test Squadron emblem|
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.
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.
World War II
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
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
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).
- 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
- 392d Bombardment Group, 26 January 1943-13 September 1945; 24 September 1947-10 November 1949
- 704th Strategic Missile Wing, 1 April 1958
- 1 Missile (later, 1 Strategic Aerospace) Division, 1 July 1959
- 392d Strategic Missile Wing, 18 October 1961
- 1st Strategic Aerospace Division, 20 December 1961-2 April 1966
- 310th Operations Group, 1 September 1991
- 30th Operations Group, 1 July 1993
- Space Warfare Center, 22 February 1996
- 595th Test and Evaluation (later, 595 Space) Group, 1 August 2002– January 2010
- Air Force Global Strike Command, 1 December 2009 – present
Aircraft and missiles
- B-24 Liberator, 1943–1945
- B-26 Invader, 1947–1949
- SM-65 Atlas Missile, 1958–1966
- Tested LGM-118 Peacekeeper, 1991–2004
- Tested LGM-30G Minuteman III, 1991–present.
- Operated Five missile sites (9 total missiles):
- 576-A (3 SM-65D, 1960-1965), 5.7 mi SW of Casmalia CA,
- 576-B (3 SM-65D, 1959-1967), 4.8 mi SW of Casmalia CA,
- 576-C (1 SM-65E, Jul-Sep 1963), 3.7 mi WxSW of Casmalia CA,
- 576-D (1 SM-65F, 1963-1964), 1.9 mi SW of Casmalia CA,
- 576-E (1 SM-65F, 1962-1964), 4.8 mi8.5 mi SW of Casmalia CA,
- 576-F (operational test site for the Atlas E (OSTF 1), 4.3 miles SW of Casmalia CA,
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) . Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.