|Country United States|
Part of Air Combat Command
|Active 1941–1944; 1955–1960; 1963–present|
Branch United States Air Force
Role Operational test and evaluation
The 53d Wing (53 WG) is a wing of the United States Air Force based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The wing reports to the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, which reports to Headquarters Air Combat Command.
- World War II
- Cold War Air Defense
- Test and Evaluation
The 53d Wing serves as the focal point for the combat air forces in electronic warfare, armament and avionics, chemical defense, reconnaissance, and aircrew training devices. The wing is also responsible for Operational Testing and Evaluation (OT&E) of new equipment and systems proposed for use by these air forces. Current wing initiatives include advanced self-protection systems for combat aircraft, aircrew life support systems, aerial reconnaissance improvements, new armament and weapons delivery systems, and improved maintenance equipment and logistics support. The 53d Wing, which consists of four groups, numbers almost 2,000 military and civilians at 17 locations throughout the United States.
World War II
The group was activated in 1941 as the 53d Pursuit Group with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Pursuit Squadrons assigned. The 53d trained fighter pilots with Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk aircraft from its activation until December 1941. After the United States entered World War II the group moved to the Panama Canal Zone to fly patrols in defense of the Panama Canal. In conjunction with the move, the group converted to Bell P-39 Airacobra aircraft. There it was redesignated as the 53d Fighter Group. The group returned to Florida in November 1942, where it became a Replacement Training Unit (RTU) training replacement fighter pilots. RTUs were oversized units whose mission was to train individual pilots or aircrews. It used P-39s until June 1943 and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts thereafter. In early 1943, the group added a fourth squadron, the 438th Fighter Squadron.
The AAF found that standard military units, based on relatively inflexible tables of organization were proving less well adapted to the training mission. Accordingly, a more functional system was adopted in which each base was organized into a separate numbered unit. The group was disbanded in as a result of this reorganization in 1944 and its personnel, equipment and mission were assumed by the 338th AAF Base Unit (Replacement Training Unit, Fighter).
Cold War Air Defense
The group was reconstituted, redesignated as the 53d Fighter Group (Air Defense) and activated to replace the 521st Air Defense Group at Sioux City Municipal Airport as part of Air Defense Command's Project Arrow to bring back on the active list fighter units that had achieved memorable records in the two World Wars. The 14th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS), already at Sioux City transferred from the 521st, while the 13th FIS moved to Sioux City to replace the 519th FIS. Both squadrons flew rocket armed and radar equipped F-86D Sabres. Between August 1955 and April 1960 the 53d served as an air defense unit, participating in North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) exercises and testing automated air defense systems. It also was the host organization for the USAF and was assigned several support units to carry out this function. In the fall of 1957 both of the group's squadrons upgraded their Sabres to F-86L models with data link for interception control through the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system. In July 1959 the 13th FIS moved to Glasgow AFB, Montana and was reassigned. The group and its remaining components were inactivated in 1960. In 1985, the group was redesignated as the 53d Tactical Fighter Group, but it was never active under that designation.
Test and Evaluation
The USAF Tactical Air Warfare Center was activated in 1963 to improve use of USAF tactical aviation in support of ground forces by operationally testing weapon systems and tactics for the joint U.S. Strike Command. It employed a cross-section of tactical aircraft from Tactical Air Command (TAC) bases across the country. During the Vietnam War it tested tactical weapons systems and tactics for use in Southeast Asia. After the war it continued operational testing of new tactical aviation weapon systems. In 1977 the center began an annual series of Air Force-wide exercises to improve command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) techniques. Around the same time it embarked on the electronic warfare evaluation program, and continued OT&E of aviation weapon systems for TAC and later Air Combat Command, the Department of Defense, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. From 1983 to present, responsible for the operational testing and evaluation (OT&E) of all Air Force aircraft/weapons systems, and providing range control for live-firing missile programs on the Gulf range and aerial targets, using full scale and subscale drones. In September 1995, the 53rd Tactical Fighter Group and USAF Air Warfare Center were consolidated and the consolidated unit was redesignated as the 53d Wing the following month.