Eglin's operational test wing turns 70

  • Published
  • By Dr. Charles Merkel
  • 53rd Wing
The 53rd Wing will turn 70 Nov. 20 The rich and colorful history of the wing can be divided into three phases: the World War II era, Air Defense and finally its current duty as the premier operational test organization in the United States Air Force.

World War II saw the wing providing yeoman service in support of the war effort. The 53rd Wing, then known as the 53rd Fighter Group, was established at MacDill Field, Fla., and, with the exception of 11 months in Panama during 1942, was assigned to various airfields in Florida.

These included Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee, Drew Field near Tampa, Page Field in Fort Myers, and Venice Army Air Field on Florida's West Coast.

When the first emblem design was approved Jan. 8, 1943, it included a palm tree to commemorate its state of activation. After the 53rd was disbanded in May 1944, and the commander and many members of the unit were selected to be the nucleus of the 506th Fighter Squadron. They were sent to Iwo Jima to fly the first long range P-51 fighters in support of bombing missions over Japan.

The second phase was in the late 1950s when the unit supported the Air Defense mission that was prominent during the Cold War era. At this time, the 53rd Fighter Group was assigned to the Air Defense Command. It was located at the Sioux City [Iowa] Municipal Airport, which today is known as Colonel Bud Day Field.

The USAF Tactical Air Warfare Center was activated at Eglin Nov. 1, 1963. On 1 Oct. 1, 1991, it was redesigned as the USAF Air Warfare Center. Exactly four years later, Headquarters Air Combat Command consolidated the USAFWC with the inactive 53rd Tactical Fighter Group, and it was designated as the 53rd Wing. The Wing became the sole Air Force unit performing operational tests on aircraft and equipment that have been developed in support of American warfighters around the world.

Since the next step after testing is for aircraft, munitions and equipment to be used in combat, it is essential that everything operate as advertised and the members of the wing take these responsibilities very seriously.

On a daily basis the men and women of the 53rd Wing are "Perfecting Lethality" as they "Sharpen the Sword" and "Strengthen the Shield".

These subjects and others will be the focus of a symposium held at the Air Armament Museum Nov. 17, at 10 a.m. All are welcome to come to listen and view images as the wing historian presents a rare glimpse into the history and inner workings of Eglin's 53d Wing.