|416th Flight Test Squadron
|Active||1942–1945; 1947–1949; 1989–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||Air Force Materiel Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Edwards Air Force Base, California|
|416th Flight Test Squadron emblem (approved 10 October 1995)|
|6516th Test Squadron emblem (approved 24 May 1990)|
|Patch with 416th Bombardment Squadron emblem (approved 11 January 1943)|
During World War II, the 416th Bombardment Squadron was a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress squadron, assigned to the 99th Bombardment Group of Fifteenth Air Force. It earned two Distinguished Unit Citations for its performance in combat.
The 416th performs flight testing on General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.
The 416th was established in early 1942 as a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress reconnaissance squadron but was redesignated as a heavy bomb squadron before activation in June. It trained under II Bomber Command in the Pacific Northwest, being deployed with B-17Es directly to the XII Bomber Command in North Africa shortly after the Operation Torch landings in March 1943. In Algeria, the squadron engaged in combat operations in support of American ground forces in Algeria and Tunisia during the 1943 North African campaign.
In June 1943, the 416th helped force the capitulation of Pantelleria Island. It bombed in preparation for and in support of the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy in the summer and fall of 1943. In October 1943 the 416th was reassigned to the new Mediterranean Theater of Operations Fifteenth Air Force. Until the German capitulation in May 1945, the unit engaged in strategic bombardment of enemy targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece, attacking oil refineries, marshaling yards, aircraft factories, and other strategic objectives.
After V-E Day, it was assigned to Air Transport Command Green Project, which was the movement of troops from Italy to staging areas in French Morocco. B-17s were dearmed with flooring and seats for 25 passengers installed. Each crew consisted of pilot, copilot, navigator and flight engineer. The 416th carried passengers from Tortorella and later from Marcianise Airfields to Port Lyautey Airfield, French Morocco, where transports moved them across the Atlantic or to Dakar for movement via the South Atlantic Transport Route.
The squadron was demobilized in Italy in late 1945, and inactivated in November.
The unit was activated in the reserves in 1947 and possibly assigned some B-29 Superfortresses; however, it was never fully equipped or manned, and was inactivated in 1949 due to budget restraints.
The squadron was reactivated for flight testing of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1989, after an inactivity of 43 years. The unit inherited the role of the 6516th TS that was also based at Edwards AFB. As the 6516th, the 416th was tasked with testing different weapon systems and specialized equipment on the F-16 in different production versions (blocks).
Weapons testing forms only a small part of the unit's task. Most weapons testing is conducted together with the Eglin AFB based testing squadrons. Some F-16s are painted in a regular gray USAF scheme for weapons testing, but other color schemes are used, such as white aircraft with red tails and ventral fins. These aircraft are often used as chase planes for other aircraft test programs.
A variety of 416th F-16s are used to chase F-22s and F-35s. These aircraft are also relocated to other airbases all over the country, mostly going to Eglin AFB for testing assistance or to Fort Worth JRB for assistance to the Lockheed F-35 program.
In the 1990s the 416th helped in the development of the MLU upgrade package for older (mainly European NATO countries') F-16A/B models. The USAF eventually didn't get involved in the production process but did provide test aircraft #80-584 for this purpose. It is still flying with the squadron to test further enhancement packages for both MLU Vipers as for the USAF CCIP program
In the 1990s the 416th led the flight test effort in the development of the AN/ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System. The performance of this interim solution was instrumental in the retirement of the F-4G Wild Weasel aircraft in the mid 1990s. The Air Force planned to replace the F-4G but the program was cancelled and the AN/ASQ-213 remains the primary F-16 SEAD mission sensor for the HARM missile more than 25 years later.
During early 2009, the squadron deployed to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and participated in a Red Flag exercise. This was the first of this type of deployment for any Air Force Material Command unit. Red Flag 09-2 ran from 26 January to 6 February 2009. The reason for the deployment was to perform operational testing for the latest operating system M5.1+ software which is specific for the F-16. The squadron took five aircraft all equipped with this latest software and flew 54 sorties.
Another deployment was organized for 23 January to 4 February 2012, to test software for the 6.1+ operating system. The new software allows several improvements, such as ability to carry the Small Diameter Bomb. This will allow the F-16 to carry more weapons and deliver this munition from farther away. Although primary deployed to test, the 416th was also a participant with one pilot taking top Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) pilot.