49th TES celebrates 90th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Stephanie Bemrose
  • The Bombardier
A 53d Wing squadron is celebrating a legacy that extends three decades beyond that of the Air Force itself. 

The 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron began as the 49th Aero Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas, Aug. 6, 1917. After several consolidations and realignments, Barksdale became the central location for the 4201st Test Squadron in July 1974. The current designation occurred in 1999. 

Lt. Col. Kelly Lawson, 49th TES commander, said the current mission of the TES is to teach an old dog new tricks. 

The 49 TES perfects lethality by executing B-52 conventional and nuclear operational test and evaluation, directing Air Combat Command's nuclear weapon system evaluation program, optimizing Combat Air Force integration and developing tactics, techniques and procedures to sharpen the B-52 combat edge. Additionally, the 49 TES is the Air Force premier cruise missile test agency. 

One former member of the unit, Charlie Johnson, began his 36-year-long affiliation with the squadron in 1971. The unit was called the 49th Bombardment Squadron and a small test cadre formed at Pease Air Force Base, N.H., for evaluation of the FB-111A bomber. Mr. Johnson joined the unit then due to his experience with that aircraft. He said a new method of follow-on operational test and evaluation of the FB-111A and the Short Range Attack Missile were the first two programs in the unit. 

The unit's partnership with the 2d Bomb Wing is the reason the unit came to Barksdale. The 2d BW provided a branch of the munitions squadron that did the payload instrumentation on the SRAM and the non-tactical instrumentation branch, which later joined the tenant unit in June 1984. 

"These two units were not located with our squadron, so this was a logistical nightmare," Mr. Johnson explained. 

The mission of the unit expanded after the unit arrived at Barksdale. 

"Our mission went from knowing just one or two defined specialized programs to where members now have to know a lot about every system that goes on board the B-52, as well as be involved with updates to a lot of other programs," Mr. Johnson said. 

Colonel Lawson has also seen this change in the two and a half years he's spent in the squadron. 

"While our focus on nuclear cruise missiles and bombs has remained constant, we have seen a steady increase in the amount and variety of conventional testing requirements," the commander said. 

The squadron will take a brief break from this focus for a celebration August 9.  Colonel Lawson said the unit is celebrating its heritage to honor generations of warriors who have helped secure freedom. 

"As military members, it is appropriate to reaffirm this heritage, promoting that most noble form of leadership: service to our fellow man," the colonel said. 

Mr. Johnson sees this heritage and service continuing into the future. 

"As long as they keep adding weapon systems to the B-52, the squadron has a continuing mission," Mr. Johnson concluded. 

Colonel Lawson sees network centric warfare as the unit's future. 

"We are pursuing improvements in sensors such as targeting pods, datalinks, smart weapons and electronic countermeasure capabilities," he explained. "We must evolve if we hope to continue to exploit the B-52's inherent capabilities (long-range, persistence, a large and varied payload) in tomorrow's battlespace."

Editor's note: The 49TES is in the 53d Test and Evaluation Group, which falls under the 53d Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.