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79th Fighter Group

53d Test and Evaluation Group
53d Wing Emblem The group uses this emblem with the group designation on the scroll
Active 1942–1947, 1955-1960, 1988–present
Country  United States
Branch Air Force
Role test and evaluation
Part of 53d Wing
Headquarters Nellis AFB
Engagements Mediterranean Theater of Operations World War II Army of Occupation
Decorations Distinguished Unit Citation
Aircraft flown
Attack A-10
Bomber B-1, B-2, B-52
Fighter F-15C & E, F-16, F-22
Multirole helicopter HH-60
Reconnaissance MQ-1, RQ-4, U-2

The 53d Test and Evaluation Group is a group of the United States Air Force. It is a part of the 53d Wing, and is headquartered at Nellis AFB, Nevada.[1]

The Group was originally activated in 1942 as the 79th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), becoming the 79th Fighter Group (Single Engine) a few months later. Later that year it moved overseas to Egypt, where it was assigned to Ninth Air Force and participated in combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Italy until April 1945. After the end of World War II, it became part of the Army of Occupation until it was inactivated in 1947.

The group was activated again in 1955 as the 79th Fighter Group (Air Defense) as part of a program of Air Defense Command (ADC) to replace its air defense groups with fighter units with distinguished records in World War II. It provided air defense of the Great Lakes region until it was inactivated in 1960.

In 1988, Tactical Air Command activated the 4443d Test and Evaluation Group (TEG) as an operational test unit at Eglin AFB, an Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) base that was home to AFSC's Armament Center. In December 1991, as the USAF eliminated its Major Command controlled (MAJCON) four-digit units, the 79th was consolidated with the 4443d, and the combined unit was designated the 79th Test and Evaluation Group. In 1998, as a result of USAF policy that subordinate groups carry the same number as their parent wing, the 79th TEG was inactivated and replaced by the newly constituted 53d Test and Evaluation Group. In 1999, the unit moved from Eglin AFB to Nellis AFB, Less than two years later, USAF consolidated the 79th and 53d TEGs to provide one continuous history to its weapons test and evaluation group.

The unit consists of seven squadrons, two detachments, and a named flight. Its mission is to manage the flying activities of the 53d wing at Barksdale, Beale, Creech, Dyess, Edwards, Eglin, Nellis, and Whiteman Air Force bases.[1]


The group consists of seven squadrons, two direct detachments, and a named flight. These units perform tactical development, operational tests, and evaluations for Air Combat Command.[1] In addition, the group assists the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center with testing and operating the YAL-1 Airborne Laser, MQ-9, and F-35A.[1]



The group includes two detachments which are not part of the regular squadron structure:

Named flights

The group includes one named flight:

  • Combat Search and Rescue Combined Test Force – Based at Nellis AFB, the CSAR Combined Test Force currently operates the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and Guardian Angel Weapons System in an attempt to consolidate all combat search and rescue operation efforts.[1]


World War II

The group was constituted as 79th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 13 January 1942 and activated at Dale Mabry Army Airfield, Florida on 9 February 1942, drawing its personnel from the 56th and 81st Fighter Groups.[3] its original squadrons were the 85th,[4] 86th,[5] and 87th Pursuit Squadrons.[6] The group was redesignated the 79th Fighter Group (Single Engine) in May 1942. The group trained in the United States, then moved to Egypt by sea via Brazil in October–November 1942,[3] where it became part of Ninth Air Force.[7]

The group trained with P-40 Warhawks's while moving westward in the wake of the British drive across Egypt and Libya to Tunisia.[7] Although many of the group's pilots flew combat missions with other organizations, the 79th group itself did not begin combat operations until March 1943.[7] By escorting bombers, attacking enemy shipping, and supporting ground forces, the 79th took part in the Allied operations that defeated Axis forces in North Africa, captured Pantelleria, and conquered Sicily.[7] The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for its support of British Eighth Army during that period, March–August 1943.[7]

The group was assigned to Twelfth Air Force in August 1943 and continued to support the British Eighth Army by attacking troop concentrations, gun positions, bridges, roads, and rail lines in southern Italy.[7] It operated in the area of the Anzio beachhead, from January to March 1944. The group participated in the drive on Rome, from March to June 1944, and converted to P-47 Thunderbolts during that time.[7] It flew escort and strafing missions in southern France during August and September 1944, and afterward returned to Italy and engaged in interdictory and close support operations in northern Italy.[7] The group received a second DUC for numerous missions flown at minimum altitude in intense flak to help pierce the enemy line at the Santerno River in Italy in April 1945.[7]

79th Ftr Gp

Aerial Victories Number Note
Group Hq 1 [8]
85th Fighter Squadron 28 [9]
86th Fighter Squadron 26 [10]
87th Fighter Squadron 41.5 [11]
Group Total 96.5

The Group remained overseas as part of United States Air Forces in Europe after the war as part of the occupation force.[7] It was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the US in June 1947 and inactivated on 15 July 1947.[7]

Air Defense Command

The group was redesignated the 79th Fighter Group (Air Defense), assigned to ADC and activated on 18 August 1955 at Youngstown MAP, Ohio[7] as part of ADC's Project Arrow, which was designed to bring back on the active list the fighter units which had compiled memorable records in the two world wars.[12] At Youngstown, the group assumed the personnel and equipment of the 502d Air Defense Group, which was simultaneously inactivated.[13] The group provided air defense over eastern Ohio as part of 30th Air Division of ADC's Central Air Defense Force and acted as the host unit for the Air Force portion of Youngstown MAP. The 79th was assigned several support organizations to fulfill this responsibility.[14][15][16] One of the group's original componenents, the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS), flying radar equipped and rocket armed North American F-86D Sabres was already stationed at Youngstown and transferred from the 502d.[17]

In September 1957 the 86th FIS traded its Sabres for Convair F-102 Delta Dagger aircraft equipped with data link for interception control through the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system.[17] The Air Force transferred command of Youngstown MAP from ADC to Continental Air Command on 1 March 1960 and the 79th Fighter Group and its components inactivated that date.[18]


79th Test and Evaluation Group

  • Constituted as 79th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 13 January 1942
Activated on 9 February 1942
Redesignated 79th Fighter Group (Single Engine) in May 1942
Inactivated on 15 July 1947
  • Redesignated as 79th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 June 1955
Activated on 18 August 1955
Inactivated on 1 March 1960[13]
  • Redesignated 79th Tactical Fighter Group on 31 July 1985[19] (remained inactive)
  • Redesignated 79th Test and Evaluation Group on 1 December 1991
  • Consolidated with 4443d Test and Evaluation Group on 15 December 1991
Inactivated on 20 November 1998
  • Consolidated on 25 June 2000 with 53d Test and Evaluation Group as 53d Test and Ealuation Group

4443d Test and Evaluation Group

  • Designated as 4443d Test and Evaluation Group and activated on 1 July 1988
  • Consolidated with 79th Test and Evaluation Group on 15 December 1991 as 79th Test and Evaluation Group

53d Test and Evaluation Group

  • Constituted as 53d Test and Evaluation Group and activated on 20 November 1998
  • Consolidated on 25 June 2000 with 79th Test and Evaluation Group



Test Units

Edwards AFB, California
Barksdale AFB, Louisiana
Whiteman AFB, Missouri
Nellis AFB, Nevada
  • HH-60G Combined Test Force (later Combat Rescue Combined Test Force), 1 October 2002 - present



Awards and Campaigns

North Africa and Sicily, March 1943 - 17 August 1943
Italy, 16 April 1945 – 20 April 1945


Additionally, the group has flying hours assigned to the B-2 Spirit bomber, RQ-4 Global Hawk, and Lockheed U-2.

See also




  • Buss, Lydus H.(ed), Sturm, Thomas A., Volan, Denys, and McMullen, Richard F., History of Continental Air Defense Command and Air Defense Command July to December 1955, Directorate of Historical Services, Air Defense Command, Ent AFB, CO, (1956)
  • Newton, Wesley P., Jr. and Senning, Calvin F., (1963) USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II, USAF Historical Study No. 85

Further Reading

  • Coles, Harry C., (1945) Ninth Air Force in the Western Desert Campaign to 23 January 1943, USAF Historical Study No. 30
  • Coles, Harry C., (1945) Participation by the Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign, USAF Historical Study No. 37
  • Woerpel, Don. The 79th Fighter Group: Over Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy in World War II. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-7643-1322-3.
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