49th Test Squadron



The 49th Test Squadron's history began at Kelly Field, Texas, as the 49th Aero Squadron on 6 August 1917. The 49th was a training unit assigned JN-4s until the outbreak of the First World War (WWI). Equipped with new Spad XIIIs, the 49th began flying operations with the First Army and was credited with participation in the Lorraine, St Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne campaigns. On 18 December 1917, the squadron was consolidated with the 166th Aero Squadron. Then on 14 March 1921, the 166th was redesignated the 49th Squadron. On 21 June 1921, the 49th became part of the 1st Provisional Air Brigade, led by Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell. During this time, the 49th participated in bombing tests to prove the strength of the new air-arm of the army by sinking the following battleships: Texas, Indiana, Ostfriesland, Alabama, Virginia, New Jersey, Frankfort (a cruiser), and G-102 (a destroyer). Finally, the squadron became the 49th Bombardment Squadron on 25 January 1923.

During the post war years, the 49th flew the famous "Liberty" and "Keystone" bombers as well as the Martin MB-2 bomber (reclassified as NBS-1) from Langley Field, Virginia. Other aircraft flown during this time period included the first all-metal bombers: B-10, XB-15, B-17, and B-18. The squadron participated in many goodwill flights to Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. On 12 May 1938, the 49th was involved in the famous demonstration of long-range capabilities of the B-17 by intercepting the Italian ocean liner, Rex, 725 miles from the United States coastline. The lead navigator onboard the B-17 was Lt Curtis E. LeMay, who went on to become the founding father of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in 1947. During February 1939, the 49th conducted mercy missions to provide relief to earthquake victims in Santiago, Chile, while testing the capabilities of the XB-15.

During the early stages of the Second World War (WWII), the 49th conducted anti-submarine operations on both the Pacific and Atlantic coast prior to being sent to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO). From 28 April 1943 to 1 May 1945, the 49th conducted air operations in both the Mediterranean and European theaters as part of the 2nd Bombardment Group (BG), 5th Combat Wing, 15th Air Force stationed at Navarin, Algeria, flying the famous B-17 Flying Fortress. During 1943, the group moved five times: to Chateaudun-du-Rhumel, Algeria; Ain M'lilia, Algeria; Massicault, Tunisia; Bizerte, Tunisia; Amendola, Italy. Some of the important missions the 49th participated in were: the monastery at Cassino, Italy, on 15 February 1944; enemy troop concentrations at Anzio beach-head on 2 March 1944; and the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, throughout the spring of 1944. The last mission was flown on 1 May 1945 against marshalling yards at Salzburg, Austria. On 29 October 1945, the group finally moved to Foggia, Italy, where it remained as part of the occupational forces and was deactivated on 28 February 1946. By the time the 49th was deactivated, it participated in 412 combat missions flown with the 2nd BG over Africa, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Hungary.

The 49th was reactivated on 1 July 1947 at Andrews Field, Maryland. The squadron soon moved to Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, and received training on the B-29, "Super­fortress," as part of the new SAC long-range strike force. The 49th's first deployment came on 9 August through 16 November 1948 to Lakenheath RAF Station, England. Upon returning home, the 49th moved to Chatham AFB, Georgia, and added the B-50 to their inventory. In September 1950, the squadron moved to Hunter AFB, GA and began flying training missions over the eastern half of the United States. For the next three years the 49th deployed to Mildenhall RAF Station and Upper Heyford RAF Station, England, in support of NATO exercises and RAF bombing competitions. Then in February 1954, the squadron entered the "jet age" by receiving the Boeing B-47, "Stratojet." Shortly after achieving combat-ready status, aircrews began performing alert and deploying abroad. Overseas deployments included: Sidi Slimane AB and Nouasseur AB, Morocco; Brize Norton RAF Station, England; and three different bases throughout Spain. Not only were crews and aircraft performing alert at home, but at various overseas deployment bases also. The alert commitment at home was discontinued with the increase of deployed aircrews and aircraft. Most overseas alert tours would last from three to four weeks compared to the one week tour alert crews performed during the height of the Cold War. The 49th returned home to perform alert duties during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. On 1 April 1963, the squadron was deactivated until 1986.

In May 1971, a small test cadre was formed at Pease AFB, New Hampshire, for SAC's evaluation of the FB-111A bomber. This was SAC's first large-scale operational evaluation of a major airborne weapon system and was recognized as a complete success. In July 1972, the cadre was formed temporarily into the 4201st Test Squadron with a new mission to conduct operational test and evaluation (OT&E) of the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM). The AGM-69A SRAM was built by the Boeing corporation. This missile was a supersonic rocket propelled short range attack missile carried internally on the FB-111, B-52, or B-1B aircraft. The SRAM was powered by a two pulse, solid propellant-fueled rocket and carried a nuclear warhead. This missile was designed as another standoff weapon to penetrate enemy defenses and strike targets, or as an aid in Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) suppression. The missile was launched in the automatic or manual mode against pre-programmed or inflight selected targets. A total of twenty missiles could be carried on a rotary launcher in the bomb bay and on external pylons.

To establish continuing capability for conducting MAJCOM-directed OT&E of strategic airborne weapon systems, the 4201st was designated as a permanent organization in July 1974. At this time, the present location of Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, was established for the squadron to conduct its mission.

The primary reasons for selecting Barksdale were its central location to other bases and the national test ranges, and to collocate with the 2nd Bombardment Wing's Non-Tactical Instrumentation Branch (2 BMW/NTI). Prior to 1983, the SRAM and joint Department of Energy (DoE)/USAF testing of denuclearized war reserve gravity weapons projects were the squadron's primary tasking, requiring a manning level of approximately 25 personnel and an annual budget of $150,000. Then in July of 1983, OT&E management responsibility for the Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) was transferred from Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) to the 4201st, the designated responsible test organization (RTO). The ALCM project presented enormous challenges for conducting OT&E of a long-range, technologically advanced weapon system in an operationally realistic environment. To meet these challenges, along with concurrent tasking for managing SAC's certification testing of conventional munitions and for OT&E of the Harpoon antiship missile, significant manpower and budget increases were required, to improve operating efficiency and effectiveness. Also, the 2 BMW/NT officially became a branch of the squadron in June 1984. As part of SAC's initiative to provide combat-rich histories to relatively new organizations, the 4201st was redesignated the 49th Test Squadron (49 TESTS) in July of 1986.

The 49 TESTS reported directly to HQ SAC, Deputy Chief of Staff for Require­ments and Test (XRT). Prior to SAC's establishment of XRT in June 1988, the 49th reported to various HQ SAC directorates. Also, the 49th had a detachment at Dyess AFB (Det 1), manned with 50 personnel, to conduct Phase I of B-1B follow-on operational test and evaluation (FOT&E) until the weapon system came on active duty 1 October 1986.

BULLET BLITZ, nickname for testing SRAMs, consisted of live-launch and captive-carry missions conducted on the various missile ranges: Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the Air Force Eastern Test Range at Cape Kennedy, Florida, and the Naval Air Warfare Center at Point Mugu, California. SRAM testing was terminated in March 1993 during the development of the airborne theater missile defense program.


The mission of the 49 TESTS is to plan, conduct, and report OT&E of bomber aircraft and associated weapons, providing operational effectiveness, and suitability assessments for the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) and worldwide conventional operations.

As of 1 October 1995, the 49 TESTS reports directly to 53rd Wing (53 WG), Air Combat Command (ACC), Eglin AFB, Florida. The squadron consists of 83 personnel (29 officers, 50 enlisted, three civilians, plus one contractor), divided into an administration section and five flights supporting the specialized requirements of bomber testing. Because of increases in mission responsibilities, TDY requirements, and support equipment needs, the squadron budget exceeds $1.0 million annually, up from $150,000 in 1983--plus multi-million dollar test range costs that are funded by 53 WG.

Squadron Administrative Section (IM) are administrative specialists who process test documents and perform personnel management and administrative support.

Operations is divided into Plans and Programs Flight (DOX) and Test Operations Flight (DOB). DOX personnel consist of B-52 and B-1B rated positions, an airfield manager, and a target intelligence specialist; they develop and manage the test programs and direct test events at national test ranges. DOB personnel comprise both B-52 and B-1B active rated positions; they coordinate and conduct test events at operational wings.

Engineering and Analysis Flight (DOYF and DOYC). Engineers, scientific analysts, and computer programmers; they develop test plans, monitor real-time mission progress, report test results, and manage the squadron's computer systems.

The Logistic Branch is divided into two flights: Logistics Weapons Flight (LGW) and Logistics Instrumentation Flight (LGI). LGW personnel are air-launched missile system, B-52 bomb/navigation system, aircraft armament system, and munition systems specialist and maintenance data analyst; who direct flight line activities and conduct suitability testing. LGI personnel are instrumentation technicians who store, install, check, and manage test payloads and equipment.

Most of the squadron's current activities involve FOT&E of fielded weapon systems, but the squadron also supports testing of weapons in advanced phases of development and acquisition. Test results are used to advise senior ACC and Air Force staffs regarding the effectiveness and suitability of ACC weapons. In addition, the accuracy and reliability data is used to establish and update the planning factors for the SIOP.

Currently, the 49 TESTS has primary responsibility for conducting seven test programs of USAF airborne weapon systems: The Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM), gravity nuclear weapons, Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM), Harpoon antiship missile, AGM-142 conventional missile, and other conventional weapons for the B-2, B-1, and B-52 aircraft.

All nuclear warheads are replaced with instrumented payloads such as Non-Tactical Instrumentation Kits or denuclearized war reserve payloads, otherwise known as NTIKs or JTAs. Test missions are conducted on several ranges: Utah Test and Training Range, White Sands Missile Range, specially developed Canadian-US range, Naval Air Warfare Center, Tonopah Test Range, and Eglin Test Range.

The AGM-86B ALCM is built by the Missile & Space Division of the Boeing Defense & Space Group and first rolled off the production line in November 1981. The ALCM became operational at Griffiss AFB, New York, in December 1982. Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota (then a B-52 base), Fairchild AFB, Washington, and Eaker (then Blytheville) AFB, Arkansas, were the next bases to be equipped with the missile by September 1984. By 1992, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, Carswell AFB, Texas, and Minot AFB, North Dakota, were the last bases to receive the ALCM. Due to the force restructure in 1994, only Barksdale AFB and Minot AFB are equipped with the ALCM.

The ALCM is designed as a standoff weapon to penetrate enemy defenses and strike targets. It is a small winged air vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead. The missile is powered by a turbofan engine with navigation provided by an inertial guidance system. A B-52 can carry up to 20 missiles; 12 on wing mounted pylons, and 8 on a rotary launcher in the bomb bay.

The ALCM owes its effectiveness to a unique ability to fly accurately to the target, close to the ground, while avoiding detection. The terrain contour matching, known as TERCOM, provides the accuracy of the missile by periodically updating the missile's route to the target by comparing actual terrain with the pre-stored mapping data in the missile's computer.

GLOBAL CRUISE, nickname for testing ALCMs, consists of live launches and captive-carry missions performed by operational B-52 aircraft and aircrews. Stockpile missiles are launched in realistic conditions. Test events are very complex and involve extensive support, including aircraft for missile chase, airborne instrumentation, air refueling, and postmission recovery operations.

The AGM-129A ACM is built by Raytheon of Hughes Aircraft Corporation (formerly Convair Division of General Dynamics). The ACM is a positive step toward modernization of the US Strategic Command's (USSTRATCOM) nuclear force. The 49 TESTS began FOT&E Phase II testing in October of 1991. The missile saw its initial operational employment at 410th Bomb Wing, K.I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan. Again with a change in the force structure, Minot AFB and Barksdale AFB are also equipped with the ACM.

The ACM is a welcomed addition to Boeing's ALCM. It is a subsonic turbofan engine powered, winged missile with a computer controlled navigation system and armed with a nuclear warhead. A B-52 can carry 12 ACMs on wing mounted pylons.

The ACM's key to success has been the result of Convair's experience with past cruise missiles: The Tomahawk, ALCM, and Medium Range Standoff Attack Missile (MRSAM). Improvements in propulsion, aerodynamics, guidance, and signature technology provide USSTRATCOM with greater range and accuracy, more targeting flexibility, and reduced detectability. With ACM, USSTRATCOM has more options at its disposal; increased standoff capability, greater probability of arrival on target, and enhanced target coverage.

GLOBAL SHADOW, nickname for testing ACMs, is conducted in the same manner as GLOBAL CRUISE test missions.

The AGM-86C CALCM is also built by the Missile & Space Division of the Boeing Defense & Space Group. Development and testing began in 1986. The CALCM first saw operational use when seven B-52Gs, from Barksdale AFB LA, launched 35 missiles at high priority targets deep within Iraq during the opening rounds of Operation Desert Storm. Those sorties captured the record for the longest combat missions in history - over 35 hours and more than 14,000 miles round trip. As part of the command guidance, one 49 TESTS Operations person was onboard each aircraft during those missions. Currently, the CALCM is stockpiled at Barksdale AFB LA.

The CALCM is designed as a standoff conventional weapon to penetrate enemy defenses and strike targets. It is an AGM-86B cruise missile modified to carry a high-explosive, blast-fragmentation warhead. The missile is powered by a turbofan engine with navigation provided by an inertial guidance system. A B-52 can carry up to 20 missiles; 12 on wing mounted pylons, and 8 on a rotary launcher in the bomb bay.

The CALCM owes its effectiveness to a unique ability to fly accurately to the target, close to the ground, while avoiding detection. As part of the modification, the TERCOM was replaced with a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to periodically update the CALCM’s inertial navigation system.

CALCM testing is conducted in the same manner as GLOBAL CRUISE test missions.

BUSY LUGGAGE is the nickname for testing of gravity nuclear weapons on the B-2, B-1 and B-52 aircraft. This program is intended to verify weapon system capability to function in a variety of stockpile-to-target environments after stockpile exposure. It also demonstrates continuing compatibility between the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense subsystems. Joint operational tests are conducted to confirm reliability data obtained from laboratory quality assurance tests.

The AGM-84D Harpoon is built by McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Tactical Aircraft Missile System. The missile is an all weather, anti-ship weapon designed to seek out and destroy enemy ships using a built in radar homing guidance system. The missile is powered by a turbojet engine and carries a 500-pound warhead. The US Navy operates and owns a majority of the Harpoon missiles. A total of eight missiles can be carried by specifically modified B-52H aircraft on Heavy Stores Adapter Beam pylons.

GIANT SQUID, nickname for testing Harpoons, consists of live and simulated launches against target hulks or specifically designated radar reflective target drones. The Harpoon is a tactics intensive weapon and employment is heavily dependent on US Navy surveillance and targeting platforms. Test launches can be part of a joint exercise with the US Navy or NATO forces. For a test launch, the warhead is replaced with a telemetry kit. Some launches have been conducted with live warheads against retired naval vessels. Because of increased environmental concerns, such launches are rare.

The AGM-142A, RAPTOR (formerly HAVE NAP), is a conventional standoff missile manufactured by RAFAEL Cooperation of Israeli. It is an air-to-ground, electro-optically guided missile system. The RAPTOR is powered by a single stage, solid rocket motor and can be fitted with either a TV or imaging infrared seeker. The missile is guided by its own inertial navigation system, during mid-course, and then, in the terminal phase, by the B-52 radar navigator using a data link pod onboard a modified B-52H. The ability to manually guide the weapon to the target gives the AGM-142 pinpoint accuracy and makes it the first real bomber launched precision guided munition. The AGM-142 carries either a 750-lb blast fragmentation or an I-800 penetrating warhead. Each modified B-52H can carry up to three or four missiles externally depending on which aircraft controls of the missiles.

AGM-142 testing underwent initial operational checkout at Castle AFB, California. Test missions are conducted at White Sands Missile Range. As part of the Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP), testing is also conducted at UTTR. Currently, the AGM-142 is deployed at Barksdale AFB.

SHORT TRIP flight tests are conducted for various B-2, B-1, and B-52 conventional munitions and components primarily to support stores compatibility certifications. Testing is also conducted to support development testing and initial operational test and evaluations of new weapons with ACC applications.


The future holds many challenges for the 49 TESTS. The squadron's operational test and evaluation programs for current weapon systems will continue and new programs will be added. With the reorganization taking place throughout the Air Force, the 49 TESTS requirements will remain the same.

Our testing of the ALCM will continue along with ACM and CALCM testing. Software and hardware modification testing for the ALCM and ACM will be accomplished as the need arises.

Follow-on operational test and evaluation of the B-2 (FOT&E Phase II) will be taken over from the AFOTEC B-2 test team in the near future. Phase I of B-2 FOT&E will be conducted at the Whiteman AFB, MO by AFOTEC with manpower from the 79 Test and Evaluation Group (79 TEG). The 49 TESTS FOT&E Phase II testing of the B-2 will encompass all associated weapons and offensive avionics systems.

In the conventional arena, future testing requirements are varied and are often identified with a short-notice tasking. Upcoming projects include the certification of Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD), Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW), Joint Directed Attack Munitions (JDAM), Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), Guided Air Munitions (GAM), FMU-152 fuze, the verification of avionics software, mission planning systems (i.e.; Air Force Mission Support Systems [AFMSS], etc.), and avionics upgrades (i.e.; B-1B software block updates, new B-52 multifunctional displays, new forward looking infrared (FLIR) systems, airborne video recorders, etc.).

The 49 TESTS has a broad range of future challenges. Testing plans have been developed and manning/facility needs will be upgraded to meet these requirements. Specific programs anticipated include the B-2 bomber and advanced conventional weapons.