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410th Flight Test Squadron
The 410th Flight Test Squadron traces its history to the formation of the SENIOR TREND Joint (later Combined) Test Force. (Detachment 2, R unit) The unit was established in 1980 as joint test force of Lockheed and Air Force personnel at Groom Lake, Nevada (Det. 3, AFTFC) under the command of Lt. Col. Skip Anderson. (From the earliest days of Senior Trend, the USAF also maintained a detachment of test pilots at Lockheed's Burbank Skunk Works, where operational pilots went through an initial ground training course.) This acceptance test squadron with no name operated at Groom in the early days. The Baja Scorpion was quickly adopted as the symbol of the Lockheed-USAF development effort. The scorpion symbol is the symbol of all F-117A testing. Both the Baja Scorpions and the Dragon Test Team mark their aircraft with the Scorpion.
According to members of the Palmdale flight test unit, the unit then operated without any designation at all other than "Baja Scorpions". In 1990 the last F-117A (#843) was delivered. (Note: Although there was a formal ceremony at Palmdale for this "last of the line", it still made its contractor and USAF acceptance test flights at Groom the month before.) The flight test squadron no longer had to perform acceptance flights at Groom Lake of new F-117A aircraft. However, the flight test duties still included flights for refurbished aircraft. In 1991, the second FSD aircraft #781 was relieved of flight test duties, and sent to the U. S. Air Force Museum in Ohio. In February/March 1992 the nameless test unit moved from Groom Lake to Palmdale Plant 42 (As opposed to Holloman AFB with the rest of the F-117A community) It must be noted that although most of the flight test activity (the infrastructure) moved from Groom Lake to Palmdale, some testing, especially RCS verification and other classified activity is still conducted at Groom Lake. (Det 3)
In February 1992, the unit moved from Groom Lake to Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. Here it came under the operational control of the 2874th Test Squadron. The 2874th TS was soon redesignated 337th TS, to which the F-117 CTF (Combined Test Force) was still attached as Det 5, a depot management unit. Following the recommendation of a Process Action Team sponsored by the AFMC Test and Evaluation Mission Element Board, Det 5 was directed to become an Operating Location under the operational control of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB. In February 1993, however, the test wing's Director of Operations proposed that the unit be established as the 410th Test Squadron. Headquarters AFMC agreed to this, and the squadron was established on 1 March 1993. The commander was Lt. Col. Steven Green, who is the first pilot to log 1,000 hours in the F-117A.)
The 410th TS qualified for the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award for exceptionally meritorious service of national security significance from 8 May 1992 through 31 December 1993. During this period, the unit transitioned from a classified location (Groom Lake) to a "white world" location (Palmdale). Moreover, in a period of only three months, the unit came under the operational control of Air Force Systems Command, Air Force Logistics Command, and finally Air Force Materiel Command. Additionally, the squadron transitioned through two centers, the Sacramento Air Logistics Center and Air Force Flight Test Center. Throughout the turmoil of transition, the unit maintained its flight test capability. The squadron successfully completed developmental flight testing and certification of two major operational flight programs for updated avionics, and development of a new weapon system sensor. In addition, the squadron completed testing of a secret weapon system, development of a low observable antenna, three structural studies and improvement programs, as well as nine product improvement test programs. All programs were completed on schedule.
On March 10th,1994, the 410th Test Squadron was redesignated 410th Flight Test Squadron. (FLTS) On 30 May 1995, Lt. Col. Steven A. Green relinquished command of the 410th Flt. Test Sq. to Lt. Col. Charles R. Davis. On 11 July 1997, Lt. Col. Davis relinquished command to Lt. Col. Greg "Crash" Jaspers. In August(?) 1999, Lt. Col. Greg "Crash" Jaspers relinquished command to Lt. Col. xxxxxx "Ice" xxxxxx. The squadron consists of six pilots. Three pilots are employees of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works. (Long time F-117A test pilot Tom Morganfeld being among the three.) The other three pilots are USAF test pilots. (Including the commander of the squadron) New F-117A test pilots (USAF and LADC) travel to Holloman AFB, NM and go through training with the operational pilots. Just as their operational counterparts, they are assigned a specific Bandit # upon achieving F-117A flight status. For test pilots the Bandit numbers started at 100, where as operational pilots start at number 150. (The most recently assigned test pilot number was #124 in October 1999) The 410th also uses the callsign "Dagger". "Dagger 1" is always the squadron commander, "Dagger #2" the vice commander, etc. Whereas the Bandit number is different for each individual, a pilot in the 410th would change "Dagger" callsigns as they gained seniority/leadership. These "Dagger" callsigns are often heard in radio traffic around Edwards AFB.
The 410th Flight Test Squadron, 412th Testing Wing, Air Force Flight Test Center, Air Force Materiel Command at Palmdale California Plant 42 operates four aircraft for the purpose of testing new upgrades and modifications for the F-117A. They are YF-117A FSD-2 (#782), YF-117A FSD-3 (#783), YF-117A FSD-4 (#784), and production airframe (flight test modified) #831. These aircraft carry an ED tail code, with the "Squadron bird" carrying the distinctive "XXXX" Edwards AFB fin flash.(picture above)
Besides testing new things and modifications on their YF-117A and F-117A aircraft, the 410th TFLS also performs testing of operational aircraft that are going through the Modification Redelivery Program at Plant 42, Site 5, Palmdale. As work on each aircraft is completed, pilots from the 410th FLTS make a few functional check flights (FCFs) and airspeed/altitude calibration sorties. After these FCF flights, the aircraft is returned to Holloman AFB to be used by the 49th FW.
In 1997 and 1998, the 410th FLTS had been testing new carbon brakes on #783 and #784 to extend the lifetime of the brakes. Testing included ground taxi runs and numerous actual landings. They had also been conducting air-to-air refueling tests to expand the refueling airspeed envelope to 350 KCAS. This involved both the KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.
From February 2 to February 13 1998, the 410th deployed seven people and one aircraft, #831, to Holloman AFB for tests. The main purpose was to seek knowledge of operational requirements by flying and interfacing with Air Combat Command F-117A units. They also used this opportunity to test a Cloud and Horizon Video Performance modification in the IR Acquisition/Designation System turret. The mod is designed to minimize IR video degradation caused by clouds or horizon encountered in field of view.
The 410th has also tested a hybrid insulation blanket for the exhaust platypus. In February 1998, Ship 784 suffered an in-flight emergency when a single FCS FAIL warning light came on. It landed safely. In the first week of March 1998, Ship 843 made one FCF/pitot static calibration flight following depot maintenance. Later in the month, 843 returned to the operational squadrons at Holloman.
Also in March 1998, #782 was returned to flight status after spending a year in flyable storage. This was done because the other three unit aircraft were due to be in modification for an extended time. That same month, #831 was used for a Integrated Real-Time Information Into The Cockpit/Real-Time Information Out Of The Cockpit For Combat Aircraft (IRRCA) equipment mounting pallet vibration survey test sortie. Faulty instrumentation made the test totally ineffective. A test of the Structural Tracking and Engine Monitoring System (Version 45) was conducted at the same time.
|The following was published in Aug 1998 by USAF news.
"During Desert Storm, it was impossible to change the aircraft's pre-programmed mission plan. As a result, F-117As sometimes penetrated the densest, most lethal air-defense systems in the world only to find the target already destroyed, moved or obscured by weather.
Testers at the F-117A Combined Test Force at Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., are seeking to solve this problem with a new flight-test project designed to transmit real-time information into and out of an aircraft's mission computer. The combined test force is part of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
IRRCA, or the Integrated Real-time Information into the Cockpit/Real-time Information Out of the Cockpit for Combat Aircraft flight test project, will greatly enhance the F-117A's flexibility in combat, said Jim "J.B." Brown, lead IRRCA test pilot.
"A need exists on today's battlefield to provide a pilot with near real-time information on targets, weather and threats," Brown said. "So far, IRRCA has demonstrated the ability to provide real-time information and to automatically adapt to changing battlefield situations."
Initial go-ahead for the demonstration program was given in December, 1997. The IRRCA team completed the "real-time information into the cockpit" phase of the program June 30, 1998. The "real-time information out of the cockpit" phase is expected to begin next year(1999).
The key to IRRCA is the integration of a real-time symmetric multiprocessor. This processor allows for onboard mission planning to take place in minutes. At 1.2 billion instructions per second, the new processor provides significantly faster computation times than ground mission planning, Brown said.
The processor will use the latest threat updates received in-flight through the IRRCA system. As the aircraft receives threat updates from satellite broadcasts, a moving map displays new threats and the processor automatically evaluates the situation.
If the detected threat is expected to affect the mission, the processor will re-plan the F-117A's route. The processor then gives the pilot an option to accept or reject the proposed route using threat exposure, flying time and landing fuel as decision factors.
A new color liquid crystal diode multifunction display provides interface between the pilot and the vehicle. This device can display a moving map, text messages, images and IRRCA system status. In addition to mission information, text and images also update the pilot on key events and weather.
Progress so far has shown the F-117A can react to mission updates, or target changes, and pop-up threats while remaining in a stealth configuration, said project manager Chris Greek.
In early July 1998, encrypted messages were transmitted to a modified F-117A on simulated combat missions using a geostationary satellite and the aircraft's low-observable (stealthy) communications radio antenna system. These messages included threat updates, mission updates, text information for the pilot and target imagery.
Mission changes were transmitted to the F-117A, providing information for the real-time symmetric multi-processor to re-plan the mission for a new target.
The mission update message was followed up by a text message and accompanying photographs. The pilot used these to verify the processor's planning results, enabling him to perform target study before attacking.
"The photographs were invaluable in the acquisition of targets," said Brown, who flew the test mission. "That's important since pin-point targeting is the F-117A's forte."
The future of this technology may be used in other aircraft as well, according to Greek.
"IRRCA demonstrated that it will allow more efficient use of limited war-fighting assets," Greek said. "When it's fielded, commanders will have greater flexibility to react to changing tactical situations.""
Ship #831 was used in April 1998 for Flight Control System Transducer Heat Shield tests. Heat shields are designed to prevent nuisance preflight FCS BIT failures caused by large power-up thermal gradients. In May 1998 , #782 flew five Blow-In Door High Pin test sorties. The hinge pins were redesigned to prevent foreign object damage (FOD) problems. Recent testing has been involving the JSAW missile.
|The following was published in the Feb 16, 1999 issue of USAF News contained within a story on the Air Force Flight Test Center and Edwards AFB, Calif.
"As Air Force fighters and bombers fly into harm's way during Middle East operations, thousands of people in the heart of California's Mojave Desert intently scan the news to keep up with events.
Though not a part of the operations, these people feel involved. They played a key role in developing the Air Force planes brought into action.
It's therefore no surprise to them -- members of the Air Force Flight Test Center -- when deployed airplanes meet with success.
The center here specializes in developmental test and evaluation, providing an environment in which aerospace experts can test, evaluate and help develop new aircraft, aircraft subsystems and aircraft components.
The mission: To ensure aircrews go into combat with the most effective and reliable aircraft in the world.
The F-117A Nighthawk is the world's first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology. This capability made the Nighthawk a key attacker in recent Middle East operations.
As a reflection of the Nighthawk itself, the F-117A CTF maintained a stealthy profile when it first began testing the revolutionary plane.
"Tight teamwork developed in the test force during the 'black days' (classified period), when the plane was in its initial development," said Lt. Col. Gregory Jaspers, commander of the 410th Flight Test Squadron and the F-117A CTF. "The final product reflects that close teamwork - the result speaks for itself."
The test force works out of U.S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., just south of Edwards.
"The F-117A CTF represents a true example of contractor and Air Force personnel working together," Jaspers said. "The sum is greater than its parts."
A recent project of the test force involved testing an improved navigation system for the F-117A. Now operational, that system is a prerequisite on all deployed F-117As.
In another recent project, F-117A experts tested a real-time information into the cockpit capability for the Nighthawk that will now allow real-time communication with the outside world while the plane is in stealth mode. This capability includes integration of a new real-time symmetric multi-processor, which allows onboard mission planning at faster computation times than current ground mission planning. If this new technology is put into the aircraft, the pilot will have the ability to adjust his mission based on changing threats and targets, a capability previously unavailable.
The testers are proud of their role in keeping the F-117A at the forefront of technology, Jaspers said, and they don't rest on their accomplishments. Improving the F-117A is a continual process.
"Some of the things we're working on now aren't in the operational world yet, but will play a significant role in the F-117A's future combat survivability and maintainability," Jaspers said. "There are some exciting new developments currently in testing that will go operational in two to five years.""
Because of their relative proximity, it is the 410th FLTS that makes appearances at the annual Edwards Air Force Base Open House. (Remember, the Baja Scorpions are based at Plant 42, Site 6 Lockheed Martin Skunkworks in Palmdale, Calif.) In past years two to three of the Baja Scorpions do a flying demonstration, then land and become static displays. Last year there was even a weapons loading demo done after their aerial routine. (Often the testing stripes on the bomb bay doors are visible.) This year's Edwards AFB Open House (October 9/10th 1999) featured #783 on Static Display and #782 presenting a nice flying display. Unfortunately #'s 784 and 831 were unavailable due to being down for modifications. Remember, the 410th's primary function is that of USAF Flight Test Operations.
Name: "The Baja Scorpions"
F-117A Combined (later Joint) Test Force
??? Unit, 4450th TG
Later Det ???, 2874th TS (Test Squadron)
Later Det 5, 337th TS
Later 410th TS, 412th TW(Testing Wing)
Later 410th FTS (Flight Test Squadron), 412th TW
March 25, 1991
The Baja Scorpions are authorized to move from Area 51 (Det 3, AFTFC) to Palmdale, Plant 42.
March 27, 1992
The Baja Scorpions move from Area 51 (Groom Dry Lake base) to Palmdale, Plant 42.
The Baja Scorpions become assigned to the 2874th Test Squadron.
The 2874th TS was redesignated 337th TS, to which the F-117 CTF was still attached as Det 5.
March 1, 1993
The Baja Scorpions become the 410th TS, 412th TW.
Lt. Col. Steven Green assumes command.
March 10, 1994
The 410th TS redesignated 410th TFLS (Flight Test Squadron).
May 30, 1995
Lt. Col. Charles R. Davis assumes command of the 410th Flt. Test Sq.
July 11, 1997
Lt. Col. Greg "Crash" Jaspers assumes command of the 410th Flt. Test Sq.
July 31, 1999
Lt. Col. Vince "Ice" Catarina assumes command of the 410th Flt. Test Sq.
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