“As goes the 53rd Wing, so goes the Air Force”

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Savanah Bray
  • 53rd Wing
Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, and Chief Master Sgt. David Wade, ACC command chief, visited the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 23-24, 2020.

Their visit with 53rd Wing Airmen showcased test, evaluation, and mission data reprogramming, highlighting the wing’s drive for accomplishing their mission statement of “providing tactical advantage to the warfighter at the speed of relevance.”

“No other unit, no other wing, deals with the combination of hardware, software, tactics and sustainment,” Kelly said. “That’s why the 53rd Wing is so key. The Air Force is an exponentially growing software entity and the relevance of what this team does is also growing exponentially.”

One example of exponential growth is the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force, a unit that shares assets and personnel from both the 53rd Wing and Air Force Material Command’s 96th Test Wing. This unique unit is tasked with software development on F-16s, F-15Cs and F-15Es and will manage the developmental and operational testing of the F-15EX.

While meeting with the OFP CTF, Kelly explained that the CTF structure is important to break down walls from the general officer perspective to the lowest level, setting a standard for how operational and developmental test can work together moving forward.

As the Air Force’s only wing tasked with operational test and evaluation and mission data reprogramming, the 53rd Wing’s responsibilities span beyond ACC to include other major commands like Air Force Global Strike Command.

Kelly shared that this is a smart partnership because the 53rd Wing the center of excellence for rapid programming, software development, and operational flight programs.

“Some of the problems we bump into for the B-21 may be the same challenges we ran into with F-22 and F-35s, and the resident experts to overcome those challenges are here,” Kelly said.

In addition to the 53rd Wing’s other missions, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group plans and executes the Air Force’s Weapons System Evaluation Program.

“We as a nation, we as an Air Force, are only as strong as that with which we can credibly operate, that with which we can defend, and that only happens if you test a weapons system tooth to tail,” Kelly said. “WSEP is the organization that does that rigorous evaluation to make sure that the shots we fire in combat go exactly where and when they need to go.”