1st Air and Space Test Squadron

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1st Air and Space Test Squadron
Air Force Space Command.png
Minotaur I rocket.jpg
A Minotaur I rocket ready for launch
Active 1940–1947; 1969–1991; 2003–present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Test of space systems
Part of Air Force Space Command
Garrison/HQ Vandenberg AFB
Motto(s) First Into The Future
Engagements European-African-Middle East Theater
Asiatic-Pacific Theater[1]
Decorations Air Force Outstanding Unit Award[1]
1st Air and Space Test Squadron emblem 1st Air and Space Test Squadron.png
1st Photographic Squadron emblem (approved 3 October 1941)[2] 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (World War II).png

The 1st Air and Space Test Squadron is a unit of the 30th Space Wing of the United States Air Force, responsible for spacelift and test operations.

The squadron's operations include launching of the Minotaur I and Minotaur IV and Pegasus rockets; as well as testing the Boeing Interceptor and Minotaur II target vehicles.[3]


The squadron's mission is to provide complete service launch and test operations for current and future space launch vehicles, targets, interceptors and experimental space systems.


World War II

The squadron was established by Headquarters, United States Army Air Corps in early 1940 as the 1st Photographic Squadron.[2] It performed aerial mapping primarily over the northeastern United States prior to the Pearl Harbor Attack using obsolescent cargo and Martin B-10 bombers as aerial platforms. After the United States entry into World War II, equipped with Lockheed A-29 Hudsons, Beech C-45 Expeditors and Douglas A-20 Havocs (all in photographic reconnaissance configuration) and performed aerial photography and mapping in uncharted areas of Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland for development of Northeast Transport Route for the movement of aircraft, personnel and supplies across the North Atlantic from the United States to Iceland and the United Kingdom.

The squadron re-equipped with long-range Consolidated B-24 Liberator reconnaissance aircraft and deployed to Alaska in late 1943, assisting in the establishment of landing fields in the Aleutian Islands; also to map uncharted areas of internal Alaska to establish Lend Lease aircraft emergency landing fields over trans-Alaska route from Ladd Field and Elmendorf Field to Nome.

B-29 (operated by squadron 1944-1947)

The squadron was relieved from assignment in Alaska and returned to Continental United States. It deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations across the South Atlantic Transport Route to North Africa in early 1944. It performed aerial surveys and mapping over Sicily; Italy and along the North African Coast and Middle East with B-24s and some Boeing B-17Fs converted to F-9 reconnaissance configuration over non-combat areas. It then deployed to India and China; performing unarmed long-range mapping of remote areas of the China-Burma-India Theater over combat areas in support of ground forces and strategic target identification over Indochina and the Malay Peninsula for follow-up raids by XX Bomber Command operating from India.

The unit returned to the United States in late 1944. It was equipped with very long range Boeing B-29 Superfortresses converted to F-13A reconnaissance configuration. It deployed to the Central Pacific Area and was assigned to Eighth Air Force in the Pacific Theater after the Japanese Capitulation. The squadron remained in the Western Pacific performing reconnaissance mapping flights over Japan, Korea and China. B-29s returned to the United States in early 1946 for storage or reassignment; unit largely demobilized on Okinawa, flying some light liaison and courier aircraft. It was inactivated in early 1947 and disbanded on 8 October 1948.[2]

Test Operations in the Pacific

BQM-34 Firebee being returned to Wallace AFS

The squadron replaced the 6400th Test Squadron, which had been organized in 1967, in 1969. It conducted weapons system evaluation, known as COMBAT SAGE, of F-4 aircraft, of F-15 aircraft from 1980, and of F-16 aircraft from 1982, until shortly before inactivation. It also trained visiting aircrews from other Pacific Air Forces units in weapons employment and tactics.


1st Photographic Squadron
  • Constituted as the 1st Photographic Squadron on 22 December 1939
Activated on 1 February 1940
Redesignated 1st Mapping Squadron on 13 January 1942
Redesignated 1st Photographic Mapping Squadron on 9 June 1942
Redesignated 1st Photographic Charting Squadron on 11 August 1943
Redesignated 1st Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Heavy on 10 November 1944
Redesignated 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Long Range, Photographic-RCM[note 1] on 4 October 1945
Redesignated 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Long Range, Photographic on 13 November 1945
Inactivated on 10 March 1947
  • Disbanded on 8 October 1948
  • Reconstituted and consolidated with the 1st Test Squadron as the 1st Test Squadron on 19 September 1985[1]

1st Test Squadron
  • Constituted as the 1st Test Squadron on 12 September 1969
Activated on 15 October 1969
Consolidated with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron on 19 September 1985
Inactivated on 30 October 1991
  • Redesignated 1st Air and Space Test Squadron on 28 October 2003
Activated on 1 December 2003[1]







Explanatory notes
  1. ^ RCM (Radio Countermeasures) would later be more commonly referred to as electronic countermeasures.
  1. ^ a b c d e f Warnock, A. Timothy (January 2, 2008). "Factsheet 1 Air and Space Test Squadron (AFSPC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 8-9
  3. ^ Vandenberg AFB Fact Sheet: 1st Air and Space Test Squadron Archived 2008-05-03 at the Wayback Machine, 1 March 2010 (retrieved Dec 16, 2012)
  4. ^ AF Pamphlet 900-2, Vol II, p. 4


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  • AF Pamphlet 900-2, Unit Decorations, Awards and Campaign Participation Credits, Vol II Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, 30 Sep 76
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