The 18th Flight Test Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida performs field tests of aircraft for Air Force Special Operations Command located with one detachment at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The 18th FLTS evaluates aircraft, equipment and tactics in realistic battlespace environments to provide decision makers accurate, timely and complete assessments of mission capability. From concept development to system fielding, the unit's mission improves the survivability and combat capability of special operations forces worldwide.
The 18th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS), located at Hurlburt Field, Florida, is the "independent field test agency" of Air Force Special Operations Command. It has one detachment at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The 18th FLTS evaluates aircraft, equipment and tactics in realistic battlespace environments to provide decision makers accurate, timely and complete assessments of mission capability. From concept development to system fielding, the unit's mission improves the survivability and combat capability of special operations forces worldwide.
The 18th FLTS is composed of approximately 96 people. The squadron consists of seven flights: fixed wing, vertical lift, operations analysis, combat applications, special missions, instrumentation and mission support.
The one detachment at Edwards Air Force Base, which is responsible for operational test and evaluation and tactics development and evaluation of the MV/CV-22 Osprey and supports Headquarters Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center in conducting joint tests with the Navy and Marine Corps.
SMOTEC filled a unique role by exploring new frontiers in special operations capabilities and developed better equipment and tactics to support Air Force special operations forces located throughout the world. It provided AFSOC with the centralized expertise needed for development and operational testing of new systems and tactics, proposed changes in doctrine, and recommended new requirements. The unit's co-location with the 1st SOW made it ideally suited to perform the mission of improving the worldwide Air Force aim of special operations forces.
On 1 October 1993 the 1st SOW was redesignated as the 16th SOW. SMOTEC remained a direct reporting unit to Headquarters AFSOC until 31 March 1994. On 1 April 1994, Air Force organizational changes dictated the unit's inactivation and realignment under the 18th Flight Test Squadron, also a direct reporting unit to HQ AFSOC.
The squadron was activated at Langley Field, Virginia in January 1941 as the 18th Bombardment Squadron, one of the original squadrons of the 34th Bombardment Group, and equipped with a mixture of B-17C and B-17D Flying Fortresses and Douglas B-18 Bolos. Along with the 34th Group, the squadron moved to Westover Field, Massachusetts four months after they were activated.
After the Pearl Harbor attack the squadron began antisubmarine patrols off the Northeast coast of the United States, but soon became part of Western Defense Command and moved to Pendleton Field, Oregon. By the summer of 1942, Second Air Force had become primarily a heavy bomber training force and the squadron became a B-17 Replacement Training Unit (RTU) at Geiger Field. RTUs were oversized units which trained aircrews prior to their deployment to combat theaters.
On 15 December 1942 the squadron moved to Blythe Army Air Base, California a base of the Desert Training Center. The unit provided cadres for a number of heavy bomber units that served with Eighth Air Force during this period.
The 18th began training with Consolidated B-24 Liberators for overseas combat operations on 5 January 1944. Its ground echelon moved to the port of embarkation on 1 April 1944, while the air echelon began its overseas movement on 31 May 1944, taking the southern ferry route, from Florida to Trinidad, Brazil, West Africa and Marrakesh arriving at RAF Valley, Wales. The squadron arrived at its permanent station, RAF Mendlesham, England, in April 1944 and entered combat on 23 May 1944.
The squadron helped to prepare for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, by bombing airfields in France and Germany, and supported the June landings by attacking coastal defenses and communications. It supported ground forces at Saint-Lô in late July and struck V-1 flying bomb launch sites, gun emplacements, and supply lines throughout the summer of 1944.
The mixture of B-24s and B-17s in the 3d Bombardment Division presented a number of operational problems, and in early 1944 plans had begun at VIII Bomber Command headquarters to standardize the division with the Flying Fortress. The 34th Group flew its last B-24 mission on 24 August 1944. It transferred its Liberators for overhaul and eventual transfer to units of the 2d Bombardment Division, and began converting to B-17s. It flew its first mission with the new planes on 17 September 1944. The squadron engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives from October 1944 to February 1945. Targets included marshaling yards in Ludwigshafen, Hamm, Osnabrück, and Darmstadt; oil centers in Bielefeld, Merseburg, Hamburg, and Misburg; factories in Berlin, Dalteln, and Hanover; and airfields in Münster, Neumünster, and Frankfurt.
During this period the squadron also supported ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. In March 1945, with few enemy industrial targets remaining and with Allied armies advancing across Germany, the 18th turned almost solely to interdicting enemy communications and supporting Allied ground forces. The 18th flew its last combat mission on 20 April 1945.
After V-E Day the squadron flew missions carrying food to flooded areas of the Netherlands and transported prisoners of war from German camps to Allied centers. The squadron redeployed to the United States in June and July 1945. The first elements of the air echelon departed 19 June 1945. The ground echelon sailed aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth from Southampton on 6 August 1945. Upon arrival in the states, unit personnel were given 30 days leave. The squadron reassembled at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota, where it was inactivated on 28 August 1945.
The 18th returned to action as the 18th Special Operations Squadron 25 Jan 1969. Activated at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, and deployed to Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam, the 18th SOS flew the Fairchild AC-119K Stinger gunship. The squadron's primary mission was the interdiction of enemy supply lines, close air support, and air base defense. Following the transfer of the aircraft to the South Vietnamese Air Force, the 18th SOS was inactivated 31 Dec 1972.
On 1 Oct 1983, the Special Missions Operations Test and Evaluation Center (SMOTEC) was activated at Hurlburt Field by order of the Secretary of the Air Force as a direct reporting unit of Headquarters Military Airlift Command at Scott Air Force Base. SMOTEC was formed through the consolidation of the test and evaluation function previously assigned to the 1550th Aircrew Training and Test Wing, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, which was responsible for combat rescue and related test. It was also responsible for the informal test and evaluation staffs of the 2nd Air Division and the 1st Special Operations Wing, at Hurlburt Field. Though testing was reassigned to SMOTEC in October 1983, most of the testing continued at Kirtland for the reminder of that year.
18th Bombardment SquadronConstituted as the 18th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940
Activated on 15 January 1941
Redesignated 18th Bombardment Squadron
, Heavy on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 28 August 1945
Consolidated with the 18th Special Operations Squadron on 19 September 1985 as the 18th Special Operations Squadron
18th Special Operations SquadronConstituted as the 18th Special Operations Squadron on 16 January 1969
Activated on 25 January 1969
Inactivated on 31 December 1972
Consolidated with the 18th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 19 September 1985 (remained inactive)
Redesignated 18th Test Squadron on 1 July 1991
Activated on 15 July 1991
Redesignated 18th Flight Test Squadron
on 23 March 1994
Inactivated on 1 April 1994
Activated on 1 April 1994
34th Bombardment Group, 15 January 1941 – 28 August 1945
1st Special Operations Wing, 25 January 1969
4410th Combat Crew Training Wing, 15 July 1969
14th Special Operations Wing, 1 October 1969
56th Special Operations Wing, 25 August 1971 – 31 December 1972
Special Missions Operational Test and Evaluation Center, 15 July 1991 – 1 April 1994
Air Force Special Operations Command, 1 April 1994
Twenty-Third Air Force, 1 January 2008
Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center, 12 February 2013