556th Test and Evaluation Squadron Activated at Creech AFB

3/5/2008 - CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, NV -- The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, the Air Force's first operational test squadron for unmanned aerial systems, held an activation ceremony here March 5.

The ceremony included a flag furling and unfurling, signifying the deactivation of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, Detachment 4 and the activation of the 556th TES. The 53rd TEG detachment transitioned into a squadron when Air Combat Command officials decided the detachment's workload and aircraft equaled that of other 53rd Wing flying squadrons.

The 556th TES will continue to provide support to UAS operations worldwide through force development evaluations; development of training, tactics and procedures; systems expertise and meeting warfighters' urgent needs. The squadron will help to manage and execute programs for MQ-1 Predator and the larger MQ-9 Reaper UAS sensors, hardware, software and weapons upgrades to maximize combat capabilities before releasing them for operational use.

"Creech used to be a sleepy hollow," said Col. Brian O'Rear, 53rd Test and Evaluation Group deputy commander, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. "Now airplanes are flying all the time. The [UAS community] is growing--the mission is incredibly important and incredibly busy."

The UAS's currently in use today were new and emerging technologies when the 53rd TEG detachment activated in January 2001. The detachment's initial mission was to support MQ-1 initial, developmental, and follow-on operational test and evaluations. That mission has increased with the required force development evaluations on the MQ-1 and the introduction of the MQ-9.

The unit received three new MQ-1s this February, and anticipates gaining another one by end of year. The squadron is also scheduled to receive its first of four MQ-9 aircraft in 2010. The detachment's Airmen, employees and equipment will remain in place at the base, but transition into the new squadron to serve the now larger mission.

"It will definitely be a significant challenge, but our job is to ensure the right improvements get to the warfighter as complete and as fast as possible," said Lt. Col. Ty Moyers, 556th TES commander. "This is a team effort and we'll continue to work closely with warfighters at Creech and Nellis to increase our efficiencies," he said.

The 556th designation was chosen by ACC for its lineage and history of surveillance. The 556th Reconnaissance Squadron, a C-130 Hercules squadron that launched reconnaissance drones over North Vietnam, was active from 1968 to 1972.

Source: USAF/Nellis AFB Press Release by Capt. Jessica Martin

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