|Country United States|
|Active 1941—1944, 1975-1982, 1992-2012|
Branch United States Air Force
Role Developmental Test and Evaluation
Part of Air Force Material Command
Motto(s) Custos Libertate Latin (Guardians of Liberty) 1942-1944 Support 1975-1983 Proof by Trial 1993-2012
The 46th Test Wing is an inactive wing of the United States Air Force last based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The wing's 46th Test Group was a tenant unit at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The wing's history dates from 1941, when the Army Air Forces (AAF) activated the 46th Bombardment Group. The group served in the early period of the United States' involvement in World War II flying antisubmarine missions over the Gulf of Mexico. It then served as a training unit until being disbanded in 1944 in a general reorganization of AAF units.
The 46th Aerospace Defense Wing replaced the 4600th Air Base Wing to provide administrative an logistic support to headquarters elements of Air Defense Command and North American Air Defense Command at Ent Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. It was inactivated in 1983.
The wing and group were consolidated into a single unit in 1984, but remained inactive until 1992, when the consolidated unit was activated at Eglin as the 46th Test Wing. The wing managed test and development at Eglin and at Holloman until 2012 when its functions were combined with those of the 96th Air Base Wing in a reorganization of Air Force Materiel Command.
The wing executed developmental test and evaluation for Air Force air-delivered weapons, navigation, and guidance systems, command and control systems and Air Force special operations systems.
World War II
The wing was activated as the 46th Bombardment Group (Light) and in 1941, equipped with Douglas A-20 Havoc aircraft. Its operational squadrons were the 50th, 51st, and 53d Bombardment Squadrons, and the 8th Reconnaissance Squadron. Shortly after activation in 1941, the 8th Reconnaissance Sq mission changed and it became the 87th Bombardment Squadron. The 46th participated in maneuvers, including desert maneuvers, and flew anti-submarine warfare patrol and search missions over the Gulf of Mexico in early 1942. It also served as an operational training unit, which involved the use of an oversized parent unit to provide cadres for "satellite groups." In late 1943 the group mission changed to replacement training of individual pilots and aircrews (RTU). Just before disbanding, the group began to convert to North American B-25 Mitchells. In 1944, the group was disbanded and its personnel, equipment and functions transferred to the 333d AAF Base Unit (Replacement Training Unit, Light Bombardment) at Morris Field in a major reorganization of the Army Air Forces in which RTUs were disbanded and training activities given to base units.
In March 1975, 46th Aerospace Defense Wing was activated to replace the 4600th Air Base Wing at Peterson Field, where it took over the personnel, equipment, and of the 4600th and its mission of administering facilities of North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), Aerospace Defense Command (ADC), and Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) located on Ent Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, plus various other nearby off-base facilities, which the 4600th wing had been performing from Ent Air Force Base, then from Peterson Field since April 1958. Despite its name, the wing was a "disguised" air base wing. Although the provision of administrative and logistics support was the wing's primary mission, its flying training squadron served NORAD and ADC mission requirements and provided flying training for cadets at the United States Air Force Academy until 1 October 1979, when ADC was inactivated and the wing transferred to the 4th Air Division of Strategic Air Command. In April 1983, the 46th was inactivated and replaced by the 1st Space Wing.
The 46th was redesignated as the 46th Test Wing and replaced the 3246th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in October 1992. It designed and performed flight and ground developmental tests with uniquely modified aircraft and facilities for conventional weapons and electronic combat systems. The wing also supported other Department of Defense components and numerous allied nations during test and exercises and managed the largest test range in the free world. Weapons systems recently tested by the wing include the Small Diameter Bomb, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Target Void Sensing Fuze, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), and the Trident Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The wing worked closely with the 53d Wing of Air Combat Command, which performed operational testing of many of the same weapons systems.
In February 2012, the wing relocated its UH-1N helicopters from Eglin to Duke Field in anticipation of a 250 percent increase in helicopter developmental test programs. The wing mission transferred to the 96th Air Base Wing, which was redesignated as the 96th Test Wing on 18 July 2012. The 46th Test Wing was subsequently inactivated on 1 October 2012.