Air Force Missile Development Center

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
20px Air Force Missile Development Center
Air Force Missile Development Center sign in 1958
Active 1 September 1957[2]-1 August 1970[3]
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force, assigned to:

with predecessors assigned to:

Role Research & Development
1948 April 23-1949 January 10: AMC Project EO-727-12 reactivated JB-2 launches at Holloman for testing missile guidance control and seeker systems, and telemetering/optical tracking facilities, as well as use as targets for new surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. The above two-rail JB-2 launch ramp at Holloman was a 400 ft (120 m) on a 3° earth-filled slope--a second 40 ft (12 m) ramp was on a trailer[4] (1948-9 missile detection experiments used modified SCR-270 radar at Holloman.)[5]

The Air Force Missile Development Center and its predecessors were Cold War units that conducted and supported numerous missile tests using facilities at Holloman Air Force Base, where the center was the host unit ("Holloman" and "Development Center" were sometimes colloquially used to identify military installations in the Tularosa Basin.)


Planned for British Overseas Training which was not pursued, World War II construction for a Tularosa Basin USAAF base 6 mi (9.7 km) west of Alamogordo, New Mexico, began on 6 February 1942. A nearby military range was established by Executive Order No. 9029,[6] and the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range was designated on 14 May 1942.[7] On 27 May 1942 the USAAF base was designated Alamogordo Field Training Station for range support and was subsequently[when?] named Alamogordo Army Air Base.[7]

359th Base Headquarters

The 359th Base Headquarters was the base operating unit for Alamorgordo AAB beginning on 10 June 1942, and the base was redesignated Alamogordo Army Air Field on 21 November 1942 and supported numerous WWII Bomber Groups (range targets were added in late 1942.)[7] In October 1944 at Wendover Army Air Base, Utah, the Special Weapons Field Test Unit was established as a detachment of the Special Weapons Branch in Ohio[specify] to evaluate captured and experimental systems such as the Republic‐Ford JB‐2, a copy of the German V-1 flying bomb.[8] South of Alamogordo AAF between the White Sands National Monument and Fort Bliss, water well drilling began construction of White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG) facilities on 25 June 1945.[9]

On 25 March 1944, the 231st AAF BU became the base operating unit, and in 1946 the post-war Alamogordo AAF was "manned by a skeleton crew merely as a plane refueling station, [for] emergency landings, etc" (the USACE property division "acquired...exclusive use of all private lands and interests within the Alamogordo Bombing Range until 1967".)[6] In March 1947, the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group of Florida began Republic-Ford JB-2 testing at the Alamogordo range, and the Special Weapons Field Test Unit was inactivated when Wendover transferred to Strategic Air Command.[10] Equipment and 1,200 personnel of the Test Unit moved to a new Alamogordo AAF unit organized 16 March 1947 (4145th Army Air Forces Base Unit), and the move continued until September 1947 for R&D of pilotless aircraft, guided missiles, and other programs. The Balloon Branch at Alamogordo AAF began in 1947 after an Air Materiel Command awarded a contract to New York University (NYU) to develop and fly high-altitude balloons.[11] The 4145th was redesignated an Air Force Base Unit on 27 September 1947[citation needed] during the month the USAF was created, and in late 1947[12][verification needed] the former USAAF bombing range and the White Sands Proving Ground merged to become the New Mexico Joint Guided Missile Test Range.[7]:248 The former USAAF air base was designated Holloman Air Force Base on 14 January 1948, and the 2754th Air Force Base was its host unit after being established from the 4145th AFBU on 15 August 1948 (the 2754th AFB unit's "Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron" were established by 15 December 1948).[13]

Alamogordo Guided Missile Test Base

The Alamogordo Guided Missile Test Base near Holloman AFB continued to be used for testing in 1948 and later[14] (July 1951-August 31, 1952 sub-base of the AFMTC in Florida),[2] and the 2754th subsequently developed additional launch support sites at/near the former bombing range (e.g., Four Bits Peak Instrumentation Annex assigned June 1949 "7 mi ESE of Alamogordo, NM").[7] In March 1949, the 2754th took "control of [the Army's range] support airfield, Condron Field...from Biggs Army Air Field at Fort Bliss."[9] The 2754th and subsequent units' launches at the test base and other sites such as for the Tiny Tim (the first Army rocket), GAM-63 RASCAL, and XQ-2 Drone,[citation needed] e.g.:

  • 1947 June 5: A "cluster of rubber-type balloons" for research was launched[who?] near Alamogordo.[2]
  • 1947 July 3: A balloon was launched from "Holloman" [sic] by a New York University team.[2]
  • 1947 November 14:[verification needed] The Alamogordo Guided Missile Test Base had its 1st Boeing GAPA missile launch (the 39th GAPA launch and 1st with a ramjet--the last GAPA was launched in 1950.)[15]
  • 1948 May–November: Demonstration rockets for the NATIV launch vehicle program were fired at Holloman (a blockhouse built for the program was also used for JB-2 launches.)[4]
  • 1948 July: USAF Project MX–774 commenced with the first RTV-A-2 Hiroc launch (from the Army's White Sands Proving Ground's Launch Complex 33)[9]
  • 1949 June 14: Holloman prepared the 2nd monkey capsule for the Albert Project[2]
  • 1949: Tactical Air Command began testing the B-61 (redesignated TM-61, then MGM-1 Matador) at Holloman--the initial flight crashed and the 2nd launch outran the chase aircraft--there were 25 total Matador launches at Holloman (the JB-2 trailer ramp was adapted for the MGM-1 Matador.)[4]
  • 1949: The 1st X–8 Aerobee was launched at Holloman[9] (the last was in 1958).
  • 1950: 1st test on the test track was an SM-62 Snark[16]
  • 1950 July 15: The 3,550 ft (1,080 m) Snark missile launching facility was completed[7] for N-25 models at the Holloman SLED/Snark launch complex.[17]
  • 1950 August 29: 1st of the balloon flights for the Aero Medical Laboratory.[2]
  • 1950 December 21: In the 1st Snark flight test "the missile disengaged from its sled below flight separation speed and was destroyed."[9]
  • 1951 April 18: "From Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, an Aerobee research rocket carried the first primate, a monkey, into space."[18]
  • 1951-2: A 2/3-scale version of the GAM-63 Rascal called "Shrike" was tested at Holloman AFB by the 6556th Guided Missile Squadron.[4]
  • 1952: A "covered wagon launcher" was used for Project Moby Dick (Project 119L) balloon launches at Holloman.[2]
  • 1952 (mid): The Holloman range of more than 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) was 2nd in area to the Eglin range (the Edwards range was 3rd.)[7]
  • 1952: Falcon model "C" and "D" missiles were fired against bomber drones by the March 31 cadre assigned to Holloman AFB from Patrick AFB's 6556th Guided Missile Squadron.[4][19]
  • 1954 March 19: a new 3,500 ft (1,100 m) rocket-powered sled was first run
  • 1955 Spring: Rocket sled Sonic Wind Number 2 was received[2]
  • 1956: Ground firings of AIR-2 Genie missiles identified fin instabilities.[20]
  • 1956 September 1: The 500th Holloman balloon launch was conducted.[21]
  • 1957 February: Test and evaluation of the XSM-73 Goose decoy began with the Holloman rocket sled.[22]
  • 1958: Two F-100 chase planes escorted a MGM-13 Mace from Holloman to Wendover AFB.[23]
  • 1958 June 8: Detachment 1, 4504th Missile Training Wing was established to test TM-76 Mace missiles

Reorganizations changed the Holloman wing's name to the 2754th Experimental Wing (on September 20, 1949[7]—the 2d Guided Missiles Squadron was a subordinate from 25 October-30 December 1950), the 6540th Missile Test Group (30 June 1951, later 6580th Missile Test Group on 1 September 1952) which had an "Aero-Medical support the Aeromedical Field Laboratory."[2] In May 1952, an additional 40 mi × 117 mi (64 km × 188 km) area was set aside to add to the "Alamogordo bombing range, White Sands proving ground, and the Fort Bliss antiaircraft range".[24]

File:Holloman AFB Handbook - 1958.jpg
The 1958 cover of the base handbook featured the emblem of the Air Force Missile Development Center

Development centers

The Holloman Air Development Test Center (later Holloman Air Development Center, HADC)[7] was established from the 6580th Wing on 10 October 1952 while Colonel Don R. Ostrander was the commander[25] (7 June 1952 – 26 September 1954).[7] On October 1, 1953, HADC continued as the test unit after transferring "base operating unit" responsibilities to the 6580th Test Support Wing.[7] ARDC's Dr. Ernst Steinhoff "in the 1950s was building up the Air Development Center at Holloman Air Force Base through most of the decade".[26] The center supported tests for Air Force flights and upcoming manned space flights,[27]:Foreword e.g., 1955 Project Manhigh,[27] 1959-60 Project Excelsior, the first human tests in the rocket sled firings,[28] and Ham the Chimp's 1959 astronaut training.[29]

The Air Force Missile Development Center (AFMDC. "AF Mil Dev Test Cen") was designated from HADC on September 1, 1957,[2] the year when a Matador missile from the center crashed in western Colorado[30] (the joint range was renamed White Sands Missile Range on May 1, 1958)[7]:248 The 6571st Aeromedical Research Laboratory was activated 1 December 1961 as an AFMDC unit,[citation needed] and the center's Twin Buttes Instrumentation Annex "16 mi SSW of Alamogordo, NM" (assigned December 1949) transferred under the WSMR Army headquarters in November 1963.[7]

6585th Test Group

The AFMDC and the 6571st lab were inactivated on August 1, 1970;[3] more than 450 military and 570 civilian positions were lost;[citation needed] and the AFSWC's 6585th Test Group was established as a tenant of Tactical Air Command, to which Holloman AFB transferred. Associate units[specify] and programs transferred to other locations within Air Force Systems Command. In addition to the Holloman High Speed Test Track operated by the 6585th's "Armaments Division" in 1974,[31] remaining facilities included the Central Inertial Guidance Test Facility (CIGTF), the Radar Target Scatter Facility (RATSCAT), and the Target Drone Facility.

External video
Holloman Range Control (minute 4:55)


  1. "New Missile Book, and Blue Fly" (Letters to AAFM). December 2011. Blue Fly, to exploit Soviet hardware when it comes more or less permanently into US or allied hands, Round Robin, to exploit Soviet hardware when it comes temporarily into US hands (e.g. Russian aircraft landing at international or US airfields) and Moon Dust, to exploit big booster or missile and satellite equipment which fell from the air hence the name applied (e.g. the piece of Soviet equipment which fell into Wisconsin). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "History of Research in Space Biology and Biodynamics at the Air Force Missile Development Center" (PDF). Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. 1946–1958. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-18. Project MX-1450R, Physiology of Rocket Flight ... Standards Laboratory at Holloman ... Scott Crossfield and the Air Force's Major Charles E. Yeager both flew a number of Keplerian trajectories ... in January 1953 [the Aeromedical Field Laboratory] became a function of the local [Holloman Air Development] Center ... the Aeromedical Field Laboratory in 1953 was placed directly under the Center's 6580th Test Group, and was thus on an equal standing with the 6580th Missile Test Squadron and the 6580th Special Test Squadron (which in turn included the Holloman Balloon Unit) ... in 1956 the Aromedical Field Laboratory was made part of a newly created Directorate of Research and Development. ... test installation<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Air Force Systems Command Special Order G-94
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles, (2009), George Mindling, Robert Bolton ISBN 978-0-557-00029-6
  5. Stanley G. Zabetakis and John F. Peterson (1964). "The Diyarbakir Radar" (PDF). CIA.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Michael Welsh (1995). "Dunes and Dreams: A History of White Sands National Monument" (PDF). As early as January 30, 1946, he wrote to the regional director that "the [Alamogordo Army Air Base] will be manned by a skeleton crew merely as a plane refueling station, emergency landings, etc. ..." The Engineers' property division had "acquired the fee simple title to all private owned lands within the Fort Bliss Anti-Aircraft Range, has the exclusive use of all private lands and interests within the Alamogordo Bombing Range until 1967 ..."<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases (PDF) (Report). Volume I: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. Retrieved 2013-08-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. [full citation needed] This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Peter L. Eidenbach. "A Brief History of White Sands Proving Ground 1941-1965" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. AFHRA Document 00179518, Pictorial Brochure of the Special Weapons Field Test Unit, Wendover Army Air Base, Utah
  11. "Holloman Air Force Base - Alamogordo, New Mexico".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Integration of the Holloman-White Sands Ranges, 1947-1952 (2nd Edition, 1957)
  13. "United States v. Allen". Court-Martial Reports of the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force. LLMC.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Alamogordo Guided Missile Test Base: Progress Summary Report (Air Force History abstract) (Report). 1948. iris 01013761. Retrieved 2013-10-03. Early Warning Radars Razon, Radio Controlled Bombs Tarzon, Radio Controlled Bombs Radar Development<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Bushnell, David (1986-08-25). GAPA: Holloman's First Missile Program ( image) (Report). Air Force Missile Development Center: Historical Branch. iris 00169113. Retrieved 2013-08-11. [1st ramjet GAPA] "was launched 14 November 1947 and the initial liquid-fuel variety 12 March 1948.8 ... The last of the GAPAs, number 114, was launched 15 August 1950, and the project officially terminated at Holloman the following month.11<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (date identified at]
  16. Meeter, George F. (1967). The Holloman Story: Eyewitness accounts of Space Age research. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. 47. OCLC 1430870. Retrieved 2014-05-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Air Force Missileers".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Untitled".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Hughes AIM-4 Falcon".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Van Citters, Karen; Bissen, Kristen (Jun 2003). National Register of Historic Places: Historic Context and Evaluation for Kirland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico (PDF) (Report). Retrieved 2013-06-16. first operational Genie rockets onto F-89J aircraft. Problems cleared during 1956 included rocket fin modifications, rocket engine temperature control and storage matters, final testing of systems components, flight-testing and examining possible weapon vulnerability, and hazards in operational situations. Results of ground firings at Holloman Air Development Center in 1956 revealed a fin instability problem.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Highlights - 500th Balloon Launch". HiddenHolloman website. September 1, 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (cites "Chronology of Events, Air Force Missile Development Center 1941-1958, AFHRA IRIS 0487401")
  22. "SM-73 Bull Goose". 1997. Retrieved 2007-11-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Lake, Dale (Fall 2008). "Call Sign Updates" (newsletter). TAC Missileers (Volume 10, Issue 3). Retrieved 2013-07-18. The AN/MSQ/1A Training was done at the small community of Bonn, near Ramstein Air Base.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "New Mexico Area Will Be Missile Range". The Milwaukee Journal. May 28, 1952.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Holloman Air Force Base - Fact Sheet (Printable) : 96TH TEST GROUP HISTORY".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Weitze, Karen J. (November 1999). Cold War Infrastructure for Strategic Air Command: The Bomber Mission (PDF) (Report). United States Army Corps of Engineers. p. 3. Retrieved 2013-08-15. German scientific-engineering community of World War II are many and subtle. Those who stayed within the U.S. military civil service system often worked at the GS-15 to GS-17 level—the uppermost grade levels within the system. Those who left were behind the scenes in noteworthy places. … Examples include Dr. Ernst A . Steinhoff, Dr. Martin Schilling, and Dr. Bruno Balke, among many.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (see also:
    Weitze, Karen. 1997. "Guided Missiles at Holloman Air Force Base: Test Programs of the United States Air Force in Southern New Mexico, 1947–1970." Alamogordo: Holloman Air Force Base.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Bushnell, David (1958). History of Research in Space Biology and Biodynamics at the Air Force Missile Development Center, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico 1946–1958. James Stephen Hanrahan, Chief of Historical Office. Holloman Air Force Base: United States Air Force, Air Force Missile Development Center. Archived from the original on July 6, 2009. Retrieved August 9, 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Burgess, Colin; Chris Dubbs (2007). Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle. Springer-Praxis Books in Space Exploration. Springer. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-387-36053-9. Retrieved August 17, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Gray, Tara (1998). "A Brief History of Animals in Space". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Archived from the original on May 12, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2008. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Missile Goes Wild, Crashes in Rockies". The Milwaukee Journal. February 21, 1957.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. The Holloman Track (Report). Holloman Air Force Base: Armament Division. 1974.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (cited by NRHP nomination)