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Page born: April 01 2002

[F-117A #804 acting as the Dragon.()]

The Dragon Test Team

The USAF today describes the Dragon Test Team mission as one which "maximizes USAF and F-117 combat capability by conducting operational test and evaluation, tactics development and evaluation, foreign military exploitation and reliability and maintainability testing".

Early Years

FOT&E (Follow-On Testing and Evaluation) was responsible for testing the weapons delivery computations of all Operational Flight Programs (OFP) released from Flight Test (Baja Scorpions). Prior to the 4450th TG receiving an OFP, FOT&E was testing Weapons Delivery Center OFPs with #787, a F-117A delivered with the first generation of avionics.

The origin of the Dragon Test Team name can be traced back to 1982 and aircraft #80-0787, named "Pete's Dragon". Pete Barnes, (?) was scheduled to make his first F-117A flight on July 9, 1982. To Pete's surprise, a green dragon (inspired by the invisible creature in Walt Disney's movie "Pete's Dragon") embellished the side of #787 prior to Barnes innaugral flight. A painter for LADC, Brad Brown, had volunteered to perform the paint job the night before on his own personal time.

(In "We Own the Night" there is a picture of the bombbay door of FSD 4, with the writing "The Dragon" and scorpion shaped mission markings.) The scorpion symbol has become the symbol of all F-117A testing. Both the Baja Scorpions and The Dragon Test Team mark their aircraft with the Scorpion emblem. At this time the webmaster's cannot confirm that FSD 4 (#783) "The Dragon" was associated with the Dragon Test Team. However, the author believes that it is not just coincidence and there is a connection somewhere. It would make since that the name "Pete's Dragon" was in response to another airframe being "The Dragon". Again however, this is speculation on the webmaster's part.

The Baja Scorpions (now 410th TFLS) were responsible for flying and certifying each of the 59 production aircraft before they were turned over to Tactical Air Command (TAC). There were usually four to six test flights (about half contractor and half USAF) for acceptance.

Ship #787 and was the first IOT& E/FOT& E aircraft. (Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, and Flight Operational Test and Evaluation respectively) Testing of new concepts was done at the IOT&E level in a test flight setting. If a modification was approved, it would then be tested at the FOT&E level in an operational setting. After both testing phases, the improvement would be incorporated into the USAF fleet.

Ship #787 was delivered to Groom Lake and made it's first flight in the summer of 1982. With the advent of a second generation avionics suite called the Weapons System Computer (WSC), #787 was no longer representative of the aircraft being delivered.

Pete Barnes was assigned to fly IOT&E in #787. Barnes, the second operational TAC F-117A pilot (Bandit #110), made his first flight in #787 on July 9, 1982. The night before the flight, Brad Brown (a painter for LADC) painted a dragon design on the side of the aircraft, after hours, on his own time. The aircraft became known as "Pete's Dragon". On August 23, 1982 #80-0787 was accepted by the USAF.

Pete's Dragon also had it's own patch-a black shield with a green dragon and "Pete's Dragon" in red. Patrick Allen Blazek writes that the origin of the "Pete's Dragon" patch in part derives from the Walt Disney movie of the same name that featured an invisible dragon. The USAF crew chief for the aircraft was Clyde Fonner. To raise money for Fonner's retirement party, the patch was designed.

Pete's Dragon II was airframe #807. It replaced #787 for FOT& E in early 1985. The Dragon name had now become permanently associated with F-117 FOT& E. The USAF personnel involved in the FOT&E program began calling themselves the "Dragon Test Team", and decided that they needed a group patch rather than one associated with a specific aircraft. The first generation Dragon Test Team patch appeared in 1986. The Dragon Test Team members had been under the jurisdiction of the 4450th TG. On Oct 5, 1989, (The same day the 4450th TG became the 37th TFW.) TAC activated the Dragon Test Team as Det. 1, 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, at Tonopah Test Range. Typically the team flew aircraft based at Tonopah, but carried out everyday operations, no longer constrained by "blackness", in better known sectors of Nellis.

The 57 FWW remained in operation until Oct. 1, 1991 when it was redesignated 57th FW. This caused the Dragon Test Team to be activated as DET 1. 57th Fighter Wing. (Most pictures of Dragon aircraft like the ones below and to the right are from this era with the WA Tailcodes. The WA tailcodes indicated being a part of the Nellis based 57 FW. As with other Nellis based aircraft, the "Dragon" wore the distinctive checkered fin flash. The Nellis flash was also incorporated into the emblem of the unit. The picture on the right was taken by photographer Tony Landis in Oct. 1991 outside of Tonopah.)

On Nov. 12, 1991, Brig. Gen. Tony Tolin (who commanded the F-117A's 4450th TG/37th TFW/37th FW from Aug 10, 1988-Aug 16, 1990) took command of the 57th FW. Brig. Gen. Tolin was in charge of the 57th FW during the period when the F-117 force relocated from Tonopah to Holloman AFB. Det. 1, 57 FW was deactivated at Tonopah and activated at Holloman on June 1, 1992. (The day TAC became ACC)

[Dragon being chased by Holloman 'smurf'.()]

Typically the Dragon Test Team operated a single F-117A (but as need be other F-117A's are "recruited") at Holloman with WA tailcodes, but flew to Nellis for most weapons tests and training. Tolin was still in charge when the 57th FW became the 57th Wing on Feb. 1, 1993. This caused the Dragon Test Team to be deactivated on Feb 1 1993(Some sources April 1), and activated as DET 1, 57th Wing.

The 57th Wing had an OL (Operation Location) at Kirkland AFB, New Mexico, where various aircraft including the F-117 had been evaluating for their vulnerability to EMP (electromagnetic pulse). The 57th Wing was scheduled for reorganization on Oct. 1, 1994. On Oct. 1, 1995, the USAFAWC (57th Wing) was redesignated the 53d Wing under command of the USAF Weapons and Tactics Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., which was redesignated the Air Warfare Center on the same day. The roles and missions of the two units (53d Wing and 57 Wing) were combined into a single center to improve communication, efficiency and combat capability in the test and development process. On 1 October 1996, the Dragon Test Team was reassigned as Det 1, 79th TEG as part of the 53rd Wing .

The following was published in the Sunburst in late 1998.

"Detachment 1, 79th Test Evaluation Group, stationed at Holloman AFB is the only Air Combat Command unit that owns an F-117 outside of the reaches of the Fightin' 49ers (49th FW). The "Dragon Test Team" operates a single F-117A from Holloman AFB. The unit that owns Detachment 1, the 79th TEG, is based at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and belongs to Eglin's 53rd Wing. The "Dragon" is maintained by the 7th FS and it's tail code is that of the 53rd Wing-"OT". "We're stationed out here because of the maintenance and logistics support at the wing, including spare parts and trained maintainers," Lt. Col. John Gibbons, detachment commander said.
The detachment takes what is developed at the Lockheed-Martin facility in Palmdale, Calif., (FOT&E) and tests it out on the operational flying level. (IOT&E) "We plan test missions to ensure new equipment, weapons, and software are compatible with operational constraints," Lt. Col. Gibbons said."

At some unknown date the 79th TEG became the 53rd TEG, and the Dragon is currently Det. 1, 53rd TEG, 53rd Wing. The 53rd Test and Evaluation Group is responsible for the overall management of the 53rd Wing's flying activities.

29th TSS

There are also other 53rd TEG based units that supports the Dragon Test Team at Holloman. The 29th TSS (Training Systems Squadron) operates a unit at Holloman as "OLAA". (Operating Location AA). The 29th TSS has 3 detachments and 6 Operational Location units spread across 9 bases in the United States. The "Bomber Flight" consists of 6 units supporting B-1, B2, B-52, RC-135, JSTARS, and E3-A aircraft respectively. The "Fighter Flight" consists of 3 units supporting the F15, F-16, and the Dragon Test Team (F-117A) respectively. The official mission of the 29th TSS is: "Aircrew Training Device Acquisition, Modification, and Test Program Management". The 29 TSS serves as the "Functional Manager and Technical Expert for Testing, Modification, Acquisition, and Certification of all Combat Air Forces (CAF) Training Systems." and "Conducts Developmental, Acceptance, and Operational Testing for all CAF Training Systems, Implements MAJCOM training system Quality Assurance Programs, and Manages and Conducts all CAF Simulator Certification"

Acording to the 53rd TEG webpage, the "The 29th Training Systems Squadron is the Combat Air Forces' focal point for technical expertise on all aspects of acquisition, maintenance, certification, hardware and software issues, and government testing for the A-10, B-1, B-2, B-52, E-3, E-8, F-15, F-16, F-22, F-117, EF-111, and RC-135 aircrew training devices. Squadron personnel oversee developmental, acceptance and operational ATD testing, and manage all CAF simulator certification programs. They are directly involved in ATD life-cycle management from concept development and preliminary design review through sustainment and program deactivation -- "cradle to grave." By keeping training devices concurrent, cost effective and viable, the 29 TSS guarantees training systems meet present and future warfighters' needs while supporting evolving training demands with modern technology."

NOTE FROM WEBMASTER: The 29 TSS may not support the Dragon, but the training mission of the 7th CTS via the F-117A WST.

422nd TES

In support of the Dragon Test Team is another unit of the 53rd TEG, the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron based at Nellis. According to the 53rd TEG webpage "The 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron is a composite squadron that conducts operational tests of Attack/Observation A/OA-10, F-15C, F-15E, F-16C, and HH-60G hardware and software enhancements prior to release to the Combat Air Forces through aircraft specific divisions. The squadron develops and evaluates tactics that optimize the combat capability of these weapon systems. They conduct selected foreign materiel exploitation and special access projects and also conduct field visits to familiarize operational units with new developments." Although it is not mentioned in that description, it is known that the 422nd supports the Dragon Test Team through a new "Advanced Programs" branch which has conducted several important foreign materiel exploitation projects and provided support to the F-22, B-2, and F-117A (through the Dragon Test Team) programs.

[Various Dragon patches.(Carrie Rasberry www.bellx-3.com)]

Unit Heritage of the Dragon Test Team.
DesignationParent UnitBeginningEndingOLTailcode
Dragon Test Team 4450th TG Late 1982 10/05/1989 Tonopah ??????
Det 1 57th Fighter Weapons Wing 10/05/1989 10/01/1991 Tonopah 57 FWW, WA
Det 1 57th Fighter Wing 10/01/1991 06/01/1992 Tonopah WA
Det 1 57th Fighter Wing 06/01/1992 02/01/1993 Holloman AFB WA
Det 1 57th Wing 02/01/1993 10/01/1995 Holloman AFB WA
Det 1 53rd Wing 10/01/1995 10/01/1996 Holloman AFB WA
Det 1, 79 TEG 53rd Wing 10/01/1996 Late 1998 Holloman AFB OT
Det 1, 53 TEG 53rd Wing Late1998 Current Holloman AFB OT

[Dragon wearing the 'OT' tailcode.(Sunburst)]

Serial Listing of Dragon Aircraft
Serial #BeginingEndingTailcodeComments
787 July 1982 Early 1985 Named "Pete's Dragon" (FOT&E)
807 Early 1985 Named "Pete's Dragon II" (FOT&E)
835 57 FWW, WA Named "The Dragon (DET 1, 57 FWW)" in Gulf War
804 1991? 1995? WA Picture by Landis in Oct 91 on approach to TTR
Full picture is shown on my "Sources" Page.
803 May 1, 1997 OT Damaged in Mishap on landing
837 Early 1997 April 21, 1999 OT Damaged in Mishap on landing
803 ???? ???? OT Briefly used as Dragon???
835 May 1999 Current OT(?) Current Dragon

NOTE: The above information in the table is VERY speculative. I have not so far found a good source for information on the Dragon Test Team. The above is based off of Pictures in books mainly.

Name: "The Dragon Test Team"
??? Det. 4450th TG
Det. 2, USAF
Later Det. 1, 57th Fighter Weapons Wing
Later Det. 1, 57th Fighter Wing
Later Det. 1, 57th Wing
Det 1, 79th TEG, 53rd Wing
Det 1, 53rd TEG, 53rd Wing

July 9, 1982
First flight of #80-0787 "Pete's Dragon". (Origin of Dragon Test Team under 4450th TG)

First "Dragon Test Team" patch appears. (Patch above)

Oct 5, 1989
TAC activates Det 1, 57 FWW (The Dragon Test Team) at Tonopah.

October 1, 1991
The 57th FWW becomes the 57th FW.

June 1, 1992
Det 1, 57th FW (Dragon Test Team) moves from Tonopah to Holloman AFB.

February 1, 1993
The 57th FW becomes the 57 Wing.

October 1, 1995
The 53rd Wing and the 57th Wing were combined into a single center.

October 1, 1996
The "Dragon Test Team" is reassigned as Det 1, 79th TEG (Test and Evaluation Group), 53rd Wing.

May 21, 1997
Lt. Col. John Gibbons (Bandit #496) assumes command of the "Dragon Test Team".

The 79th TEG, 53rd Wing becomes the 53rd TEG, 53rd Wing.

May 27, 1999
Lt. Col. Glenn Baugher (Bandit #410) assumes command of the "Dragon Test Team". (Lt. Col. Baugher moved from operations officer for the 7th Combat Training Squadron).

March, 2001
Maj. Phil "gdo" DeLillo (Bandit #544) assumes command of the "Dragon Test Team".

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