|412th Test Wing
|Active||1943–1946; 1955–1960; 1978–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Garrison/HQ||Edwards Air Force Base, California|
|Motto(s)||"Proof by Trial"|
|Decorations||Air Force Outstanding Unit Award|
|Brigadier General Matthew Higer |
|412th Test Wing emblem (Approved 22 May 1957)|
|6510th Test Wing emblem|
The 412th Test Wing (412 TW) is a wing of the United States Air Force, assigned to the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
The 412th Test Wing plans, conducts, analyzes, and reports on all flight and ground testing of aircraft, weapons systems, software and components as well as modeling and simulation for the USAF. It is also the host wing for Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. – the 2nd largest base in the Air Force. The wing oversees base day-to-day operations and provides support for over 10,000 military, federal civilian and contract personnel assigned to a 470 square mile installation. Approximately 1500 Test Wing Desert Warriors directly support the test and evaluation mission of the Air Force Test Center and the 412th Test Wing.
The wing is responsible for operating the base, including the infrastructure, communication systems, security, fire protection, transportation, supply, finance, contracting, legal services, personnel and manpower support, housing, education, chapel and quality of life programs on a 301,000-acre base in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the second largest base in the U.S. Air Force.
The 412th TW is host to over 100,000 visitors annually and supports over 25,000 dependents, retirees, and veterans. Major units within the wing include the 412th Mission Support and the 412th Medical Groups, as well the 412th Civil Engineer/Transportation Directorate, 412th Security Forces Squadron and the Services and Comptroller Divisions. Staff agencies include chaplain services, base comptroller, inspector general, manpower and organization, and military equal opportunity and public affairs.
The 412th Test Wing's origins can be traced to 29 November 1943 when the 412th Fighter Group was activated at Muroc Army Air Field, California. Testing of the Bell P-59 Airacomet jet fighter was being conducted at a site on the north shore of Rogers Dry Lakebed, about six miles away from the training base at Muroc.
The group remained a headquarters-only group until 11 March 1944 when the 445th Fighter Squadron was assigned to begin flying the Airacomet for operational testing. In June, the group moved to Palmdale Army Air Field, California and was brought up to full strength in the summer, when the 29th and 31st Fighter Squadrons were assigned. Its original mission was to conduct tests and engage in experimental aircraft work as part of IV Fighter Command.
The 412th was the first American jet fighter group to be activated. The P-59A was shortly joined by a second jet fighter, the Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star. As with virtually all of the test programs conducted during the war years, most of the initial flight test work on the XP-59 had been conducted by the contractor. The group developed training programs and trained aircrew and ground personnel as cadres for newly formed jet aircraft-equipped units. Problems with the planes' Allison J33 engines kept the group's Shooting Stars grounded through part of 1945, and the plan's accident rate was twice that of any other fighter in the Army Air Forces inventory.
In November 1945, the group moved to March Field, California, where the 39th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was attached to it to begin testing the P-80 as a reconnaissance aircraft. The group was inactivated on 3 July 1946 and its mission, personnel and jet aircraft were transferred to the 1st Fighter Group.
On 18 August 1955 the 412th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was activated by Air Defense Command (ADC) at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan, where it assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 527th Air Defense Group, which was simultaneously inactivated. This action was part of ADC's Project Arrow, which was designed to bring back on the active list the fighter units which had compiled memorable records in the two world wars. The 445th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron moved from Geiger Field, Washington and assumed the Northrop F-89D Scorpions of the 527th's 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, since Project Arrow also reunited fighter squadrons with their traditional group headquarters. These two seat interceptor aircraft were radar equipped and armed with Mighty Mouse rockets. The 412th was also assigned several support organizations as the host for active duty USAF units at Wurtsmith.
The mission of the group was the air defense of the Upper Great Lakes region. In March 1956 the group's 445th Squadron became the first unit in ADC to convert to the F-89H, which could carry the GAR-1 Falcon in addition to Mighty Mouse rockets. The squadron soon upgraded to the F-89J. On 1 January 1957 the 412th became one of the first two groups in ADC to place its F-89Js armed with 2 nuclear MB-1 Genie missiles, one under each wing, on alert. These aircraft were on thirty-minute "standby alert" in addition to the 412th's requirement to maintain aircraft on five-minute alert armed with conventional weapons. Alert aircraft armed with Genies could not be launched to identify unknown aircraft unless at DEFCON 1.
On 8 June 1956 the group expanded when a second fighter squadron, the 31st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was activated. The 31st flew the single seat Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, which, like the later model F-89s of the 445th, was equipped with data link for interception control through the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system. However the 31st remained at Wurtsmith only briefly, before swapping places with the 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and moving to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska on 20 August 1957, while the 18th moved from Ladd Air Force Base, Alaska to Wurtsmith.
Strategic Air Command (SAC) believed its bases with large concentrations of Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers made attractive targets for Soviet missiles. SAC's response was to break up its wings and scatter their aircraft over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. As part of this dispersal, SAC established the 4026th Strategic Wing at Wurtsmith in 1958 and the base expanded to accept bombers and tankers.
1960 saw a series of changes for the group. In January, the 445th Squadron traded its Scorpions for supersonic McDonnell F-101 Voodoos. SAC's expanding mission saw the transfer of Wursmith to its jurisdiction on 1 April, along with all support units. The impending move of the 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron to Grand Forks Air Force Base would leave only one fighter squadron on the base. As a result the 412th Fighter Group was inactivated and the 445th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was reassigned to the Sault Sainte Marie Air Defense Sector.
On 1 March 1978, the 6510th Test Wing was established and activated at Edwards Air Force Base, California as part of a re-organization of units at Edwards by Air Force Systems Command. The 6510th assumed the flying mission of the Air Force Flight Test Center, which was established in June 1951. The new wing had a long, established history at Edwards, having been the base host unit since the establishment of the USAF Flight Test Center.[page needed]
In the late 1970s, the Wing flew flight tests on the F-15C Eagle with its advanced engine and fire-control system; the single-engine F-16C Fighting Falcon with its revolutionary, "fly-by-wire" flight control system; and the Rockwell B-1A and the later B-1B Lancer in the 1980s with its multitude of highly sophisticated offensive and defensive systems. These planes more than bore out the prophecy concerning the ever-increasing importance of systems testing and integration. At a remote location in 1978 and 1979, an AFFTC test pilot and a pair of flight test engineers were engaged in proof-of-concept testing with Lockheed's "low-observable" technology demonstrator, dubbed "Have Blue." The successful conduct of these tests led immediately to the development of a new subsonic attack aircraft that was designated the F-117A Nighthawk.
The wing performed free-flight testing of the Space Transportation System (STS) for NASA from 1978–1980, and in April 1981 recovered the shuttle Columbia following the first-ever orbital mission of a reusable spacecraft. The wing continues to provide an alternate landing site services for STS recovery, most recently for the Atlantis during its STS-117 mission.
The dual-role F-15E Strike Eagle was developed in the 1980s and went on to demonstrate remarkable combat effectiveness in the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict. The Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN, system revolutionized air-to-ground combat operations during the Gulf War by the same conflict by denying Saddam Hussein's forces the once comforting sanctuary of night. The wing deployed support personnel and equipment to Southwest Asia for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm from, August 1990 – March 1991. While deployed, it performed tests on radar and weapons system accuracy.
The late 1980s also witnessed the arrival of the first giant flying wing to soar over the base in nearly 40 years. The thin silhouette, compound curves and other low-observable characteristics of the B-2 Spirit bomber represented third-generation stealth technology, following the SR-71 and F-117. In June 1992, Air Force Systems Command was inactivated, being replaced by Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). AFMC replaced the 4-digit AFSC 6510th Test Wing on 2 October 1992 by reactivating the 412th Test Wing, which assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 6510th. The 412th also was consolidated with the 6510th, which preserved the history and honors of the provisional AFSC unit since its establishment in 1978.
In the early 1990s, AFSC received YF-22A and the YF-23A Advanced Tactical Fighters.
The two prototype fighters were the first airplanes to blend stealth technology with agility and high-speed, supersonic cruise capability. The YF-22A was selected to become the Air Force's new advanced tactical fighter after a brief demonstration and validation risk reduction flight test program. Now named the Raptor, the F-22A continues to undergo test and evaluation by the Wing's 411th Flight Test Squadron.
A new group of research projects came to the 412th TW in the 1990s. RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle that has been used extensively in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq), made its first flight at Edwards in February 1998 and has gone on to fill a critical role in the Global War on Terrorism. The Martin Marietta X-24A, Lockheed Martin X-33, Orbital Sciences X-34 and X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicle, a series of new lifting bodies, technology demonstrators and half-scale models that might make space flight, research and development safer and more economical, were tested at Edwards by NASA.
Other projects of the 412th included XF-35A Lightning II and Boeing X-32, competing models for the Joint Strike Fighter program, made their first flights in September and October 2000. The X-35A won the competition in 2001 and will eventually be built in various versions for America's flying armed services and for foreign air forces as well. Also new are the Airborne Laser Program and several Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Programs.
412th Fighter Group
412th Test Wing