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72d Test and Evaluation Squadron[1]
72d Test and Evaluation Squadron.jpg
72d Test and Evaluation Squadron Patch
Active 18 February 1918 – 11 July 1919
1 May 1923 – 10 March 1947
13 October 1947 – 1 February 1963
1 December 1994 – 1 July 1996
20 November 1998 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Weapon system testing and evaluation
Part of Air Combat Command
Air Force Warfare Center
53d Wing
53d Test and Evaluation Group
Garrison/HQ Whiteman Air Force Base
Engagements World War I
World War II
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg DUC
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png Navy PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines).svg PPUC

Cape Gloucester New Guinea airdrome as a Liberator saw it during pre-invasion bombing, December 1943

Squadron photo of the 72d Reconnaissance Squadron, 1948

RB-29 on the ramp in the snow at Ladd AFB 1948

RB-36H (51-13741) flying over San Francisco Bay, 1954

The 72d Test and Evaluation Squadron (72 TES) is part of the 53d Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron is geographically separated but operated from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. It conducts testing and evaluation of the B-2 Spirit aircraft.

Mission[edit | edit source]

The squadron is the focal point for executing operational test and evaluation of the $44.6 billion B-2 weapon system. The squadron evaluates the ability of the B-2 weapons system to support all major requirements and reports weapon system capabilities.

The unit provides experienced operations, maintenance, engineering, and analysis personnel who plan and conduct ground and flight tests, and analyze, evaluate, and report on the effectiveness and suitability of B-2 logistics support, tactics and survivability, foreign military exploitation, weapons and mission planning. The squadron reports results and conclusions to support DoD acquisition, deployment and employment decisions.[2]

History[edit | edit source]

The squadron was formed in Texas in early 1918. After a period of training and organization, it departed from New York in the late summer of 1918, arriving in France in September. Its role during the latter part of World War I on the western front is undetermined, but it remained in France after the armistice until June 1919, arriving back in New York and subsequently demobilized in July.[1]

Reorganized in 1923 as a reconnaissance squadron, assigned to 5th Composite Group in Hawaii Territory as part of the islands air defense organization. Assigned to Hawaii on Ford Island. Activities included training, participating in Army-Navy maneuvers, staging aerial reviews and sowing seeds from the air for the Territorial Forestry Division. In 1935, the squadron helped save the city of Hilo, Hawaii, during the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano. Ten Keystone B-3 and B-4 bombers from the group’s 23d and 72d Bombardment Squadrons dropped 20, 600-pound bombs around the volcano to divert molten lava away from the town.[1]

When the Navy moved its Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor in 1939, was reassigned to Hickam Field. Was equipped with a mixture of B-18 Bolos and early B-17C/D Flying Fortresses in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Hawaii. The group suffered devastating personnel and aircraft losses in the Pearl Harbor Attack, remaining in Hawaii until September 1942 re-equipping.[1]

Deployed to the South Pacific, engaging in long-range bombing of enemy targets in the Solomon Islands and Central Pacific using Very Long-Range B-24 Liberators. participating in MacArthur's island-hopping campaign in New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. Participated in the Philippines Campaign, earning a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for its actions in combat, 1944–1945. Inactivated at Clark Field, 1947 although most personnel had already returned to the United States.[1]

Reactivated at Ladd Field, Alaska Territory in 1947 as a redesignation of the 46th Reconnaissance Squadron with a mission to conduct strategic reconnaissance operations over the Arctic. The squadron's reconnaissance missions included electronic and weather monitoring flights used to track Soviet activities in the area. Between 1948-19499 the RB-29 Superfortresss of the 72nd SRS conducted numerous photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions over the Soviet Arctic and Far East. Equipped with cameras that enabled then to remain in international airspace, whilst photographing targets deep inside Soviet territory, the aircraft searched for evidence of Soviet military activity, but unsurprisingly, found little going on in the inhospitable Arctic wastes but nobody knew what was happening further inland. To investigate activity deeper inside the Soviet Union, some RB-29s were stripped of all unnecessary equipment, allowing them to increase their operating ceiling, and began overflying Soviet territory.[3]

President Harry Truman, authorized the first overflight on 5 August 1948 when an RB-29 took off from Ladd AFB and, after routing over Siberia and spending over 19 hours in the air, eventually landed at Yokota AB, Japan. Even longer flights soon became routine with aircraft operating up to 35,000 ft, covering 5000 miles and remaining airborne for occasionally up to 30 hours. Although the Soviet Military was equipped rudimentary radar, copied from World War II US supplied equipment, large gaps existed in their radar coverage, particularly over the vast Arctic region. These gaps were soon identified and exploited by the RB-29s as they penetrated deeper inside the Soviet Union. Although they were detected on many occasions, none of the RB-29s was ever intercepted because the early MiG-15 was the only fighter with sufficient performance to reach these high-flying aircraft and none of the new fighters were then stationed in Siberia.[3]

The most significant of these missions included one on 3 September 1949 which identified the first evidence of a successful explosion of a Soviet nuclear weapon in the Semipalatinsk test site in Eastern Kazakhstan on 29 August 1949.[3]

Reassigned to the Continental United States in 1951, being re-equipped with Very Long Range RB-36H Peacemaker strategic reconnaissance bombers and assigned to the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Fairfield-Suisun (later, Travis) AFB, California. The aircraft were equipped with four J47 jet engines and with fourteen K-17C, K-22A, K-38, and K-40 cameras. It also received some advanced electronics. Its normal crew was 22, which included 5 gunners to man the 16 M-24A-1 20-mm cannon. Conducted global strategic reconnaissance until 1955, conducting ELINT and Ferret missions along the east Asian coastline. Gradually shifting to bombardment training mission beginning in 1954 as the 72d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, on 1 October 1955.[3]

Flew B-36Js heavy bombers until their phaseout in 1958, being reassigned to SAC provisional 4134th Strategic Wing, being re-equipped with B-52F Stratofortress intercontinental heavy bombers. Was reassigned to Mather AFB, California by SAC to disperse its heavy bomber force. Conducted worldwide strategic bombardment training missions and providing nuclear deterrent. Was inactivated in 1963 when SAC inactivated its provisional Strategic Wings, redesignating them permanent Air Force Wings. Squadron was inactivated with aircraft/personnel/equipment being redesignated 441st Bombardment Squadron in an in-place, name-only transfer.[1]

Reactivated as a B-52H heavy bomb squadron at Minot AFB, North Dakota in late 1994, but inactivated on 1 July 1996. Reactivated as a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber evaluation squadron in 1998.[1]

Lineage[1][edit | edit source]

  • Organized as 72d Aero Squadron on 18 February 1918
Demobilized on 11 July 1919
  • Reconstituted, and consolidated (1924) with the 72d Bombardment Squadron, which was constituted on 6 February 1923
  • Activated on 1 May 1923
Redesignated: 72d Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 6 December 1939
Redesignated: 72d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940
Redesignated: 72d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, on 6 March 1944
Redesignated: 72d Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy, on 30 April 1946
Inactivated on 10 March 1947
  • Redesignated 72d Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Long Range, Photographic, on 16 September 1947
Activated on 13 October 1947 by redesignation of the 46th Reconnaissance Squadron
Redesignated: 72d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic, on 23 February 1949
Redesignated: 72d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Heavy, on 14 November 1950
Redesignated: 72d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, on 1 October 1955
Discontinued, and inactivated, on 1 February 1963; personnel/aircraft/equipment redesignated as 441st Bombardment Squadron
  • Redesignated 72d Bomb Squadron on 30 November 1994
Activated on 1 December 1994
Inactivated on 1 July 1996
  • Redesignated 72d Test and Evaluation Squadron on 1 November 1998
Activated on 20 November 1998

Note: Operated as the 46th/72d Reconnaissance Squadrons (and subsequent redesignations) between 16 September 1947 and 28 June 1949

Assignments[1][edit | edit source]

Attached to: 5th Composite Group, 24 June 1932
Attached to: 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952

Bases stationed[1][edit | edit source]

  • Waco, Texas, 18 February 1918
  • Rich Field, Texas, 23 February 1918
  • Garden City, New York, 16 July-13 August 1918
  • St Maixent, France, 4 September 1918
  • Delouze, France, 20 September 1918
  • Colombey-les-Belles, France, 30 September 1918 – June 1919
Detachment at: Bar-le-Duc, France, 4 October-1 December 1918
Operated from: Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 4 October 1942 – 8 August 1943; 7 October-15 November 1943; 13 December 1943 – 27 January 1944

Deployed at: RAF Sculthorpe, England, 31 May −15 November 1950
Deployed at: Andersen AFB, Guam, 14 January-12 April 1955
  • Mather AFB, California, 1 July 1958 – 1 February 1963
  • Minot AFB, North Dakota, 1 December 1994 – 1 July 1996
  • Whiteman AFB, Missouri, 20 November 1998–present

Aircraft Operated[1][edit | edit source]

Operations[1][edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 AFHRA 72 TES Page
  2. 53 TEG Fact Sheet
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Wack, Fred J. The Secret Explorers: Saga of the 46th/72nd Reconnaissance Squadrons. N.p., 1990

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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