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Photo details: An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 2:10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/Released)
Located at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, the 576th Flight Test Squadron is America's only dedicated ICBM test squadron professionally executing tests that accurately measure the current and future capability of the ICBM force.
In executing the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Initial Operational Test and Evaluation and Force Development Evaluation programs, the 576th Flight Test Squadron prepares for and conducts ground and flight tests to collect, analyze, and report performance, accuracy, and reliability data for the Joint Staff, USSTRATCOM, Air Staff and Air Force Global Strike Command. The 576th Flight Test Squadron identifies missile system requirements, demonstrates current and future war fighting capabilities and validates missile system improvements and upgrades.
To be the premiere testing organization of America's best ICBM maintainers and operators validating, verifying and ultimately improving the nation's most powerful weapon system.
- Conduct safe, secure and valid operational tests that accurately measure the current and future capability of the nation's ICBM force.
- Develop the world's best nuclear Airmen prepared to lead tomorrow's ICBM enterprise.
- Validate new equipment and provide modern, flexible infrastructure for America's ICBM weapon systems.
The 576th Flight Test Squadron was first activated at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, on Jan. 26, 1943, as the 576th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) where it participated in the strategic bombardment campaigns of Europe and Germany as part of Eighth Air Force. Its involvement during the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge resulted in seven European-African-Middle Eastern Theater campaign streamers and one Distinguished Unit Citation.
The 576th was deactivated on Sept. 13, 1945, with the close of World War II. It was reactivated on September 24, 1947 as a very heavy bombardment squadron at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, and then changed to a light jet bomb squadron in November 1947. After being again deactivated in November 1949, the squadron was reactivated on March 6, 1958, as the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS) assigned to Cook AFB (later renamed Vandenberg SFB). On April 1, 1958, the 576th was assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) unit, the nation's first ICBM unit. On April 2, 1966, the 576th was once again deactivated.
Redesignated the 576th Test Squadron on Aug. 29, 1991, it was again activated on Sept. 1, 1999, as part of the activation of the 20th Air Force, America's only ICBM numbered Air Force. The 576th designation was chosen to ensure the history and lineage of the squadron would continue with the important job of testing ICBMs. The 576th has almost made a complete circle since the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron tested the Atlas missile in the late 1950's and early 1960's. In July 1993, the 576th was assigned to Fourteenth Air Force at Vandenberg AFB. The squadron was re-designated the 576th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) on July 1, 1994. Then, on Feb. 22, 1996, the squadron was reassigned from 14th Air Force to Space Warfare Center (SWC) at Schriever AFB, Colorado.
The 576th Flight Test Squadron has a very long and distinguished history in the Air Force. On March 14, 1996, the 576th, the 30th Maintenance Squadron (MXS), and portions of the 30th Logistics Support Squadron (LSS) merged to form the new 576 FLTS. Whereas the three organizations previously reported through different commanders to the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB, this merger aligned all personnel directly involved with Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) testing at Vandenberg under one commander. As part of the merger, the 576th also became a direct reporting unit to the Space Warfare Center.
The 576 FLTS was reassigned to Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) on Dec. 1, 2009 and served as a direct reporting unit to the Director of Operations at HQ AFGSC.
The 576 FLTS is now assigned to the 377 Air Base Wing who is located at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM. 576 FLTS is geographically separate unit, residing at Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA.
(Current as of July 1, 2022)