Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

53d Weapons Evaluation Group

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Country  United States
Role  Weapons Evaluation
53d Weapons Evaluation Group
Active  1943–1949; 1955–1958; 1983–1998; 1998–present
Branch  United States Air Force
Nickname(s)  Satan's Angels (World War II)
Motto(s)  In Proelio Gaudete Latin Be Joyful in Battle

The 53d Weapons Evaluation Group is a United States Air Force unit that reports to the 53d Wing. It is stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The unit is part of Air Combat Command.


During World War II the unit, then known as the 475th Fighter Group, operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater. The 475th Fighter Group was perhaps the best known of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning groups in the theater since it contained among its personnel the top scoring flying aces in the Pacific--Richard I. Bong (40 kills) and Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. (38 kills), both Medal of Honor recipients.

By the war's end, no fewer than 38 other pilots from the 475th had achieved ace status while flying exclusively P-38s. The group's commander for 20 months, Colonel Charles H. MacDonald, scored 27 kills in his famous aircraft, the "Putt Putt Maru" and was the seventh-ranking American ace.

The group remained in the Far East until 1949 as part of the occupation forces.

From 1955 to 1956 the group was an Air Defense Command interceptor group, stationed at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport. It was inactivated in 1958 when the United States Air Force withdrew its regular units from this civilian field.

As the 475th Weapons Evaluation Group, then the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group, the group has performed its current mission at Tyndall since 1983.


The 53d Weapons Evaluation Group is made up of five squadrons and two detachments and conducts the Air Force's air-to-air weapon system evaluation program, known as Combat Archer, and the Air Force's air-to-ground weapon system evaluation program, known as Combat Hammer. It also supports weapons instructor air-to-air training. Unit personnel provide all Air Force aerial target support for United States Department of Defense (DoD) users in the Gulf Ranges and targets for testing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The group also plans, manages and executes the United States Air Force (USAF) air-to-air Weapons Meet, William Tell.


  • 53d Test Support Squadron
  • The 53d is responsible for technical and staff functions to support USAF's air-to-air and air-to-ground operational test programs, including the weapon system evaluation program and other DoD weapons tests. It also provides technical, engineering, acquisition, logistics, data automation (local area network, system configuration control) and strategic planning support for the group. It manages programs for all Gulf Range air-to-air systems, range control systems, aerial target systems and payloads, missile scoring and data analysis telemetry, and communications systems. It is also the primary manager for the USAF air-to-air weapons meet, William Tell.
  • 81st Range Control Squadron
  • The 81st is Air Combat Command's only radar control squadron that is tasked to support live-fire testing and evaluation of air-to-air weapons systems against targets designed to represent anticipated threats. Using the call sign "Wetstone", it provides technical and ground-controlled interception support to Air Force's air-to-air operational test and evaluation programs including the weapon system evaluation program and other DoD weapons tests. It provides range control and flight safety monitoring for over 330 live missile firings and 3,000 combat training and test sorties annually. The squadron is responsible for the daily operation of the range control system, and directs acquisition, logistics and budgeting for range control system modernization.
  • 82d Aerial Targets Squadron
  • The 82d operates DoD's only full-scale aerial target program, maintaining an inventory of 50 modified QF-4 Phantom II drone aircraft for this purpose. It also provides Ryan BQM-34 Firebee and Composite Materials BQM-167 Streaker subscale aerial targets at Tyndall Air Force Base. These full scale and subscale targets are provided to USAF, Navy and Army customers for developmental and operational tests. The squadron also provides target support for the USAF weapon system evaluation program, the USAF weapons instructor course, and William Tell. The squadron maintains three 120-foot drone recovery vessels and two smaller patrol vessels to recover aerial targets and support range safety and salvage operations. Squadron members also operate the Air Force's only two DeHavilland E-9A Widget airborne surveillance and telemetry relay aircraft. These aircraft provide ocean surface surveillance and relay missile and target telemetry for over-the-horizon coverage of the Gulf Range and also support over-land telemetry missions for the weapons system evaluation program at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico and the Utah Test and Training Range near Hill Air Force Base. The squadron is a mix of contract personnel and military personnel. The squadron's Detachment 1 at Holloman operates and maintains a portion of the QF-4 fleet for use on the White Sands Missile Range. In addition to Air Force programs, the detachment also supports Army surface-to-air missile programs and foreign military customers.
  • 83d Fighter Weapons Squadron
  • The 83d conducts the Air Force air-to-air weapon system evaluation program. It evaluates the total weapons system including aircraft, weapon delivery system, weapon, aircrew, support equipment, technical data and maintenance. The squadron hosts 38 weapon system evaluation program deployments annually at Tyndall. It evaluates all Air Force air-to-air capabilities for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and aircraft guns, and also provides live missile training for combat USAF crews as a secondary objective. Squadron personnel verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies, recommend corrective action, and maintain data. The squadron investigates missile envelopes and evaluates capabilities and limitations to determine future firing requirements. They provide liaison support for forces participating in weapon system evaluation program, William Tell and WIC missile firing programs.
  • 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron
  • The 86th conducts the Air Force air-to-ground weapon system evaluation program. It evaluates air-to-ground precision guided munitions including weapon buildup, weapon loading, aircraft, aircrew employment procedures, support equipment, technical data and maintenance actions. The squadron hosts active duty and Air National Guard weapon system evaluation program deployments at Eglin Air Force Base and Hill Air Force Base. The annual launching of 450-plus precision guided munitions evaluates the Air Force's air-to-ground precision capabilities and also provides full-scale precision guided munition employment training for combat Air Force crews as a secondary objective. Squadron personnel verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies, recommend corrective action, and maintain Combat Air Force-wide data. The squadron investigates precision guided munition envelopes and evaluates capabilities and limitations to determine future employment requirements. It provides liaison support for pre-deployment, employment, and redeployment of Air Combat Command, United States Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve assets participating in WSEP.

    World War II

    In 1943 Japanese air strength in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II was powerful, and they were capable of launching large scale attacks against Allied ground forces and installations at any time. On New Guinea, the Japanese had many bases from which to launch their air strikes.

    The swiftest and most effective means of gaining control of the air was to bomb those Japanese strongholds and destroy as many aircraft on the ground as possible. Such bombing strikes could best be accomplished during daylight hours, when fighter escort was essential. The only fighter aircraft then in the Southwest Pacific with sufficient range to escort bombers to and from Rabaul and Wewak was the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. However, the limited P-38 strength in the Fifth Air Force in April 1943 consisted of only three squadrons, (the 80th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group; the 39th Fighter Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group; and the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group). The limited number of spare Lightnings available during late 1942 and early 1943 had to be used to make up attrition in these squadrons.

    To augment the small force, the 475th Fighter Group was activated in Australia as a P-38 unit on 14 May 1943 at Amberley Airfield in Queensland, Australia. The operational squadrons of the 475th were the 431st, 432d and 433rd Fighter. However, the continuing shortage of P-38s forced the 35th and 49th Fighter Groups to convert their single P-38 squadrons to P-47Ds, thus leaving the Fifth Air Force at the end of 1943 with only the 475th Fighter Group, and the 80th squadron of the 8th Fighter Group.

    The group was specifically trained to provide long-range escort for bombers during daylight raids on Japanese airfields and strongholds in the Netherlands East Indies and the Bismarck Archipelago. On 14 August 1943, the 475th Fighter Group and its 431st, 432d and 433d Fighter Squadrons transferred from Amberley Airfield to the Dobodura Airfield Complex, in New Guinea. The 431st and 432d operated from Port Moresby. The 431st operated until October 1943 and the 432nd until September 1943. The 433d squadron flew its first mission on 15 August 1943.

    The 475th received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for missions in August 1943 when the group not only protected North American B-25 Mitchells that were engaged in strafing attacks on airdromes at Wewak but also destroyed a number of the enemy fighter planes that attacked the formation.

    The group received a second DUC for intercepting and destroying many of the planes the Japanese sent against American shipping in Oro Bay on 15 and 17 October 1943. It covered landings in New Guinea, New Britain, and the Schouten Islands. After moving to Mokmer Airfield on Biak Island in July 1944, the group flew escort missions and fighter sweeps to the southern Philippines, Celebes, Halmahera, and Borneo.

    For a while, the 475th included among its personnel the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh. He was serving with the Group as a technical representative from the United Aircraft Corporation. Lindbergh flew a number of combat missions with the Group in June/August 1944 as a civilian to instruct pilots on how to use cruise control to get maximum range and endurance from their P-38Js. On 28 July, Lindbergh was credited with shooting down a Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-51 over Elpaputih Bay in the Netherlands East Indies in a 433d Fighter Squadron P-38 42-104995.

    The group moved to the Philippines in October 1944 and received another DUC for bombing and strafing enemy airfields and installations, escorting bombers, and engaging in aerial combat during the first stages of the Allied campaign to recover the Philippines, October–December 1944.

    Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor for missions on 25 and 26 December 1944 leading flights of P-38’s escorting bombers that struck Mabalacat Airdrome and Clark Field. He scored three confirmed victories on that Christmas day, and on the following day, he scored four more against Japanese fighters. On 7 January 1945, while attempting to save a fellow flyer from attack during a fighter sweep over Negros Island in the Philippines, Maj McGuire risked a hazardous maneuver at low altitude, crashed, and was killed.

    The group flew many missions to support ground forces on Luzon during the first part of 1945. It also flew escort missions to China and attacked railways on Formosa. It began moving to Ie Shima near Okinawa in August but the war ended before the movement was completed.

    During World War II, the 475th Fighter Group was engaged in combat for approximately two years. The group completed 3042 missions, (21,701 Sorties) and shot down 551 Japanese aircraft. On the other hand, the Group lost only 56 Planes to the Japanese. During the war, the Group took part in seven campaigns, and was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations for outstanding performance of duty in action. In addition to Majors Bong and McGuire, the unit boasted such "Aces" of the Pacific War as Col. Charles MacDonald (27), Capt. Daniel T. Roberts (14), Lt. Francis J. Lent (11), Lt. Col. John S. Loisel (11), Capt. Elliot Summer (10), plus many more.

    475th Fighter Gp


    After active combat ended, on 22 September 1945, the 475th moved to Seoul Airfield, Korea for occupation duty as part of the 308th Bombardment Wing of Far East Air Forces (FEAF). The group moved to Kimpo Airfield on 7 January 1946, where it converted to the long-range P-51H Mustang. The following March, the group added an airlift mission when the 46th Troop Carrier Squadron at Kimpo was detached from its parent group in Japan and attached to the 475th. In November 1947, the 433d Fighter Squadron moved to Itazuke Airfield and was detached to the 347th Fighter Group.

    However, in August 1948 the group joined the 433d at Itazuke and the squadron returned to the group's control. The same month, FEAF organized its combat units under the wing base organization system and the group became a subordinate unit of 475th Fighter Wing, as did the units supporting it. The 475th Fighter Group was inactivated on 1 April 1949 at Ashiya Air Base, Japan.

    Cold War

    In 1955, Air Defense Command (ADC) implemented Project Arrow, which was designed to bring back on the active list the fighter units which had compiled memorable records in the two world wars. As part of this project, on 18 August 1955, the 475th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was activated at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, where it assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 514th Air Defense Group, which was simultaneously inactivated. Because Project Arrow was also intended to unite squadrons with their historical groups, the 432d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron moved on paper from Truax Field, Wisconsin to join the group at Minneapolis, where it replaced the 337th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which departed for McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. The group also assumed host responsibility for regular USAF units at Minneapolis and was assigned several support units to carry out this responsibility. The group took over the 514th's airborne interception radar equipped and Mighty Mouse rocket armed Northrop F-89D Scorpions. By June 1956, the group was flying a mix of F-89Ds and F-89H's. The H model could carry AIM-4 Falcons in addition to the unguided Mighty Mice. Two months later the group was completely equipped with H models. In the late 1950s, ADC began withdrawing from civilian airports, partly because of security concerns arising from the nuclear capability its interceptor aircraft were beginning to acquire. In January 1958, the group and its subordinate units were inactivated.

    Modern era

    From 1983 to the present, group responsibilities included management of the Air Force weapon system evaluation program, range control for live-firing missile programs on the Gulf Range, and providing aerial targets support for special test projects, which included full-scale and sub-scale drones.


  • 475th Fighter Group
  • Constituted as the 475th Fighter Group (Twin Engine) on 15 May 1943
  • Activated on 14 May 1943 Redesignated: 475th Fighter Group, Twin Engine on 20 August 1943 Redesignated: 475th Fighter Group, c. 29 December 1943 Inactivated on 1 April 1949
  • Redesignated 475th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 June 1955
  • Activated on 18 August 1955 Inactivated on 2 January 1958
  • Redesignated 475th Weapons Evaluation Group on 14 October 1983
  • Activated on 15 October 1983 Inactivated on 20 November 1998
  • Consolidated with the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group as the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group on 25 July 2000
  • 53d Weapons Evaluation Group
  • Constituted as the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group on 1 November 1998
  • Activated on 20 November 1998
  • Consolidated with the 475th Weapons Evaluation Group on 25 July 2000
  • Consolidated Group retains designation 53d Weapons Evaluation Group


  • 46th Troop Carrier Squadron: (attached 22 March 1947 - c. 1 August 1948)
  • 80th Fighter Squadron: (attached 13 December 1943 – 24 February 1944)
  • 81st Range Control Squadron (later Test Support Squadron, Range Control Squadron): 15 October 1983 – 20 November 1998, 20 November 1998 – present
  • 82d Tactical Aerial Targets Squadron (later, 82d Aerial Targets Squadron): 15 October 1983 – 20 November 1998, 20 November 1998 – present
  • Detachment 1 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico
  • 83d Fighter Weapons Squadron: 15 October 1983 – 20 November 1998, 20 November 1998 – present
  • 84th Test Squadron, c. April 1993 - unknown
  • 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron: 23 August 1999 – present
  • Eglin Air Force Base, Florida Detachment 1 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah
  • 431st Fighter Squadron: 14 May 1943 – 1 April 1949 (detached 15 November 1947 – 28 August 1948)
  • 432d Fighter Squadron (later 432d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron): 14 May 1943 – 1 April 1949; 18 August 1955 – 2 January 1958
  • 433d Fighter Squadron: 14 May 1943 – 1 April 1949 (not operational, 1 November 1945 – 17 April 1946 and 18 July 1946 – 11 September 1946; detached to 347th Fighter Group 18 November 1947 – 28 August 1948)
  • 475th USAF Infirmary (later 475th USAF Dispensary): 18 August 1955 – 1 April 1960
  • 475th Air Base Squadron: 18 August 1955 – 2 January 1958
  • 475th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron: 8 July 1957 - 2 January 1958
  • 475th Materiel Squadron: 18 August 1955 - 2 January 1958
  • 475th Test Support Squadron (later 53d Test Support Squadron): 15 October 1983 – 20 November 1998, 28 January 2004 – present
  • Aircraft


  • QF-102 Delta Dagger, 1983–1984
  • QF-100 Super Sabre, 1983–1993; QF-106, 1991–1996
  • QF-4 Phantom II, 1996–1998, 1998 – present
  • QF-16, 2013–present
  • Numerous subscale drones, 1983–1998, 1998–present
  • References

    53d Weapons Evaluation Group Wikipedia

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