53d Weapons Evaluation Group: Wikis


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53d Weapons Evaluation Group
Emblem of the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group
Active 1943–1949; 1955–1958; 1983–1998; 1998–Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Army of Occupation ribbon.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1943–1945)
  • Army of Occupation (Japan) (1945–1949)

The 53d Weapons Evaluation Group is a United States Air Force unit that reports to the 53d Wing. It is stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The unit is assigned to the Air Combat Command (ACC).

The unit's World War II predecessor unit, the 475th Fighter Group operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater. The 475th Fighter Group was perhaps the best known of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning groups in the Theater since it contained among its personnel the top scoring Flying aces in the Pacific--Richard I. Bong (40 kills) and Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. (38 kills), both Medal of Honor recipients.

By the war's end, no fewer than 38 other pilots from the 475th had achieved ace status while flying exclusively P-38s. The group's commander for 20 months, Colonel Charles H. MacDonald, scored 27 kills in his famous aircraft, the "Putt Putt Maru", the seventh-ranking American ace.



The WEG is comprised of five squadrons and two detachments and conducts the Air Force's air-to-air Weapon System Evaluation Program, known as Combat Archer, and the Air Force's air-to-ground Weapon System Evaluation Program, known as Combat Hammer. It also supports Weapons Instructor Course air-to-air formal training syllabi. Unit personnel provide all Air Force aerial target support for DOD users in the Gulf Ranges and full-scale targets for Title 10 testing at White Sands Missile Range, Holloman AFB, N.M. The group also plans, manages and executes the U.S. Air Force Air-to-Air Weapons Meet, William Tell.


  • 53d Test Support Squadron
Responsible for technical and staff functions in support of Air Force's air-to-air/ground operational test programs to include the Weapon System Evaluation Program and other DOD weapons tests. They also provide technical, engineering, acquisition, logistics, data automation/local area network, system configuration control and strategic planning support for the 53rd WEG, including program management of all Gulf Range air-to-air systems, range control systems, aerial targets (full-scale/subscale) systems and payloads, missile scoring and data analysis telemetry, and communications systems. It is also the primary manager for the U.S. Air Force Air-to-Air Weapons Meet, William Tell
  • 81st Range Control Squadron
ACC's only radar-control squadron tasked to support live-fire operational testing and evaluation of air-to-air weapons systems against a myriad of threat-representative targets. Wetstone provides technical and ground-controlled intercept support to Air Force's air-to-air operational test and evaluation programs to include the Weapon System Evaluation Program and other Department of Defense weapons tests. Wetstone provides range control and flight safety monitoring to deployed and local flying units for over 330 live missile firings and 3,000 combat training and test sorties annually. Wetstone is responsible for the daily operation of the $10 million Range Control System, and directs acquisition, logistics and budgeting for Range Control System modernization and sustainment.
Operates the Department of Defense's only full-scale aerial target program, maintaining an inventory of 50 modified QF-4 Phantom II aircraft for this purpose. It also provides BQM-34 and BQM-167 subscale aerial targets to gulf range customers at Tyndall AFB. Full- and subscale aerial targets are provided to Air Force, Navy and Army customers for developmental and operational tests. The squadron also provides target support for the Air Force Weapon System Evaluation Program, the Air Force Weapons Instructor Course, and William Tell. The squadron participates in the Air Force Heritage Flight Program with the venerable Phantom. The squadron also maintains three 120-foot drone recovery vessels and two smaller patrol vessels to recover aerial and support range safety and salvage operations. Squadron members also operate the Air Force's only two DeHavilland E-9A "Widget" airborne surveillance/telemetry relay aircraft. These aircraft provide ocean surface surveillance and relay missile and target telemetry for over-the-horizon coverage of the Gulf Range and also support over-land telemetry missions for WSEP at Holloman AFB and the UTTR near Hill AFB, Utah. The squadron is a mix of highly experienced contract personnel and active-duty Air Force personnel. Detachment 1, 82 ATRS, Holloman AFB, New Mexico, operates and maintains a portion of the QF-4 full-scale aerial target fleet for use on the White Sands Missile Range. In addition to Air Force programs such as the F-22, AMRAAM, AIM-9X, and F-35 the detachment also supports Army surface-to-air programs and foreign military customers as well.
Conducts the Air Force Air-to-Air Weapon System Evaluation Program. The squadron evaluates the total air-to-air weapons system including aircraft, weapon delivery system, weapon, aircrew, support equipment, technical data and maintenance actions. The squadron hosts 38 air-to-air WSEP deployments annually at Tyndall. The annual firing of 300 missiles evaluates all Air Force air-to-air missile capabilities for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, AIM-7 Sparrow missile, AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and aircraft guns, and also provides live missile training for combat Air Force crews as a secondary objective. Squadron personnel verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies, recommend corrective action, and maintain Combat Air Force-wide data. The squadron investigates missile envelopes and evaluates capabilities and limitations to determine future firing requirements. They provide liaison support for pre-deployment, employment, and redeployment of Air Combat Command, United States Air Forces Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve and Canadian Forces participating in WSEP, William Tell and WIC missile firing programs.
  • 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron
Conducts the Air Force air-to-ground weapon system evaluation program. The 86th FWS evaluates the total air-to-ground precision guided munitions process including weapon buildup, weapon loading, aircraft, aircrew employment procedures, support equipment, technical data and maintenance actions. The squadron hosts active and guard WSEP deployments annually at Eglin AFB and Hill AFB, Utah. The annual launching of 450-plus PGMs evaluates the Air Force's air-to-ground precision capabilities and also provides full-scale PGM employment training for combat Air Force crews as a secondary objective. The weapons currently evaluated include the AGM-130, EGBU-15, GBU-10, GBU-12, GBU-24, GBU-27, GBU-28, GBU-31 JDAM, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-86 CALCM, AGM-154 JSOW, AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-radiation Missile, and the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser. Squadron personnel verify weapon system performance, determine reliability, evaluate capability and limitations, identify deficiencies, recommend corrective action, and maintain Combat Air Force-wide data. The squadron investigates PGM envelopes and evaluates capabilities and limitations to determine future employment requirements. They provide liaison support for pre-deployment, employment, and redeployment of Air Combat Command, United States Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve assets participating in WSEP.




  • Established as 475th Fighter Group (Twin Engine) on 7 May 1943
Activated on 14 May 1943
Redesignated: 475th Fighter Group, Twin Engine on 20 Aug 1943
Redesignated: 475th Fighter Group, c. 29 Dec 1943
Inactivated on 1 Apr 1949
  • Redesignated 475th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 Jun 1955
Activated on 18 Aug 1955 by redesignation of 514th Air Defense Group*
Inactivated on 2 Jan 1958
  • Redesignated 475th Weapons Evaluation Group on 14 Oct 1983
Activated on 15 Oct 1983
Inactivated on 20 Nov 1998
  • Consolidated (25 Jul 2000) with the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group, which was established on 1 Nov 1998
Activated on 20 Nov 1998
Consolidated Group retains designation 53d Weapons Evaluation Group.

*Under operational control of Air Defense Command 31st Air Division, 18 Aug 1955-30 Jun 1958


Attached to: First Air Task Force, c. 14 Aug 1943-c. 31 Jan 1944
Attached to: 308 Bombardment Wing, c. 1 Feb-24 Mar 1944
Attached to: 310th Bombardment Wing, c. 14 May-16 Jun 1944
Attached to: 309th Bombardment Wing, 29 May-23 Sep 1945
Attached to: 308th Bombardment Wing, c. 23 Sep 1945-c. 31 Jan 1946

Operational Components

  • 46th Troop Carrier: attached 22 Mar 1947-c. 1 Aug 1948
  • 80th Fighter: attached 13 Dec 1943-24 Feb 1944
  • 82d Tactical Aerial Targets (later, 82d Aerial Targets): 15 Oct 1983-20 Nov 1998, 20 Nov 1998–Present
  • 83d Fighter Weapons: 15 Oct 1983-20 Nov 1998, 20 Nov 1998–Present
  • 86th Fighter Weapons: 23 Aug 1999–Present
  • 431st Fighter: 14 May 1943-1 Apr 1949 (detached 15 Nov 1947-28 Aug 1948)
  • 432d Fighter (later 432d Fighter-Interceptor); 14 May 1943-1 Apr 1949; 18 Aug 1955-2 Jan 1958
  • 433d Fighter: 14 May 1943-1 Apr 1949 (not operational, 1 Nov 1945-17 Apr 1946 and 18 Jul-11 Sep 1946; detached 18 Nov 1947-28 Aug 1948)



  • P-38, 1943–1946
  • P-51, 1946–1949
  • C-47, 1947–1948
  • C-46, 1948
  • F-89, 1955–1958
  • QF-102, 1983–1984
  • QF-100, 1983–1993; QF-106, 1991–1996
  • F-15, 1994–1998, 1998–Present
  • F-117, 1993–1998, 1998–2006
  • QF-4, 1996–1998, 1998–Present
  • Numerous subscale drones, 1983–1998, 1998–Present
  • HH-60, 1997–1998, 1998–Present
  • MQ-9, 2008–Present


World War II

Emblem of the 475th Fighter Group
Col. MacDonald and Al Nelson next to his Lockheed P-38L "Putt Putt Maru(V)", 44-25471, proudly showing his 27 victories.
431 FS Major Thomas McGuire next to his Lockheed P-38J "Pudgy (V)" (44-24155)
Major Richard I. Bong in his P-38J, "Marge", (42-103993), named after his girlfriend (later wife) Marjorie Vattendahl. Bong is the United States' highest-scoring air ace, having shot down at least 40 Japanese aircraft
Foreground is P-38J-15-LO "Putt Putt Maru" (42-104024) of the 431 FS with 10 victory markings, the first of five aircraft with that name. Also shown is 432 FS P-38L "Blood & Guts" (44-25600)
Long-range North American P-51H 44-644182

In 1943 Japanese air strength in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II was powerful, and they were capable of launching large scale attacks against our ground forces and installations at any time. On New Guinea, the Japanese had many bases from which to launch their air strikes.

The swiftest and most effective means of gaining control of the air was to bomb both of those Japanese strongholds and destroy as many aircraft on the ground as possible. Such bombing strikes could best be accomplished during daylight hours, when fighter escort was essential. The only fighter aircraft then in the Southwest Pacific with sufficient range to escort bombers to and from Rabaul and Wewak was the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. However, the limited P-38 strength in the Fifth Air Force in April 1943 consisted of only three squadrons (the 80th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group; the 39th Fighter Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group; and the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group). The limited number of Lightnings available during late 1942 and early 1943 had to be used to make up attrition in these squadrons.

To augment the small force, the 475th Fighter Group was activated as a P-38 unit on 14 May 1943 at Amberley airfield in Queensland, Australia. However, the continuing shortage of P-38s forced the 35th and 49th Fighter Groups to convert their single P-38 squadrons to P-47Ds, thus leaving the Fifth Air Force at the end of 1943 with only the 475th Fighter Group, and the 80 FS from the 8th Fighter Group.

Operational squadrons of the 475th were the 431st, 432d and 433d Fighter. The group was specifically trained to provide long-range escort for bombers during daylight raids on Japanese airfields and strongholds in the Netherlands Indies and the Bismarck Archipelago. On 14 August 1943, the 475th Fighter Group and its 431st, 432d and 433d Fighter Squadrons transferred from Amberley airfield to Dobodura, in New Guinea. The 431st and 432d operated from Port Moresby. The 431st operated until October 1943 and the 432d until September 1943. The 433d squadron flew its first mission on 15 August 1943.

The 475 FG received a Distinguished Unit Citation for missions in August 1943 when the group not only protected B-25 Mitchells that were engaged in strafing attacks on airdromes at Wewak but also destroyed a number of the enemy fighter planes that attacked the formation.

The group received a second DUC for intercepting and destroying many of the planes the Japanese sent against American shipping in Oro Bay on 15 and 17 October 1943. Covered landings in New Guinea, New Britain, and the Schouten Islands. After moving to Biak in July 1944, the group flew escort missions and fighter sweeps to the southern Philippines, Celebes, Halmahera, and Borneo.

For a while, the 475th included among its personnel the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh. He was serving with the Group as a technical representative from the United Aircraft Corporation. Lindbergh flew a number of combat missions with the Group in June/August 1944 as a civilian to instruct pilots on how to use their cruise control to get maximum range and endurance from their P-38Js. On 28 July, Lindbergh was credited with shooting down a Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-51 over Elpaputih Bay in the Dutch East Indies in a 433d Fighter Squadron P-38 42-104995.

The group moved to the Philippines in October 1944 and received another DUC for bombing and strafing enemy airfields and installations, escorting bombers, and engaging in aerial combat during the first stages of the Allied campaign to recover the Philippines, October–December 1944.

Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor while voluntarily leading flights of P-38’s escorting bombers that struck Mabalacat Airdrome on 25 December 1944 and Clark Field. On the following day, he shot down seven Japanese fighters. On 7 January 1944, while attempting to save a fellow flyer from attack during a fighter sweep over Los Negros Island, Maj McGuire risked a hazardous maneuver at low altitude, crashed, and was killed.

The group flew many missions to support ground forces on Luzon during the first part of 1945. Also flew escort missions to China and attacked railways on Formosa. Began moving to Ie Shima near Okinawa in August but the war ended before the movement was completed.

During World War II, the 475th Fighter Group was engaged in combat for approximately two years. The group completed 3042 missions, (21,701 Sorties) and shot down 551 Japanese aircraft. On the other hand, the Group lost only 56 Planes to the Japanese. During the war, the Group took part in seven campaigns, and was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations for outstanding performance of duty in action. In addition to Majors Bong and McGuire, the unit boasted such "Aces" of the Pacific War as Col. Charles MacDonald (27), Capt. Daniel T. Roberts (14), Lt. Francis J. Lent (11), Lt. Col. John S. Loisel (11), Capt. Elliot Summer (10), plus many more

Postwar era

After active combat ended, on 22 September 1945, the 475th FG moved to Seoul Aifield, Korea for occupation duty as part of the 308th Bomb Wing, assigned to the 315th Air Division of Far East Air Forces. The group moved to Kimpo Airfield, on 7 January 1946 where the group converted to the long-range P-51H Mustang. The group was reassigned to Nagoya, Japan in March 1947 and later moved to Itazuke Airfield, Japan in August 1948. It became a subordinate unit of 475th Fighter Wing on 10 August.

The 475th Fighter Group was inactivated on 1 April 1949 at Ashiya Airfield, Japan

Cold War

On 18 August 1955, the 475th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was reactivated as part of Air Defense Command by a redesignation the 514th Air Defense Group as result of ADC "Project Arrow" notable unit redesignation program.

The group and its operational squadron, the 432d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was assigned to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and equipped with F-86D Sabres, then F-89H Scorpions. The group performed Air Defense missions over the north central United States until its inactivation in June 1958.

Modern era

From 1983 to present, group responsibilities included management of the Air Force Weapon System Evaluation program, range control for live-firing missile programs on the Gulf Range, and providing aerial targets support for special test projects, which included full-scale and sub-scale drones.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Brammeler, Major Charles L. 475th Fighter Group in the Southwest Pacific. Maxwell Air Force Base: Air Command and Staff college Air University, 1987.
  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1984. ISBN 0-91279-912-9.
  • Stanaway, John. Possum, Clover & Hades: The 475th Fighter Group in World War II. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 1993. ISBN 0-88740-518-5.
  • Stanaway, John. 475th Fighter Group. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2007. ISBN 1-84603-043-7.
  • USAF Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, Volume 21, Number 1, January 1979.
  • Yoshino, Ronald W. Lightning Strikes: The 475th Fighter Group in the Pacific War, 1943–1945. Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-89745-104-X
  • Zbiegniewski, Andre R. 475 FG (bilingual Polish/English text). Lublin, Poland: Oficyna Wydawnicza Kagero, 2003. ISBN 83-89088-50-9.

External links


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