461st Flight Test Squadron

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461st Flight Test Squadron
F-35 at Edwards.jpg
An F-35 Lightning II, marked AA-1, lands at Edwards Air Force Base
Active12 December 1942 – Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleFlight Testing
Part ofAir Force Materiel Command.png  Air Force Materiel Command
Garrison/HQEdwards Air Force Base, California
Motto(s)Caveant Caelum Nostrum Latin Beware, Our Sky
EngagementsOperation Market Garden
DecorationsDistinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
461st Flight Test Squadron emblem
(approved 27 August 1957)[1]
461st Flight Test Squadron.jpg
unofficial 361st Fighter Squadron emblem prior to 1945[2][3]361st Fighter Squadron - World War II - Emblem.jpg
World War II Squadron Fuselage CodeQI
412th Wing Tail CodeED
Aircraft flown
FighterF-35 Lightning II

The 461st Flight Test Squadron is a United States Air Force squadron, assigned to the 412th Operations Group of Air Force Materiel Command, and is stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The It performs flight testing on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The squadron's origins can be traced to the 361st Fighter Squadron, which flew combat in the European Theater of Operations, where it won a Distinguished Unit Citation before inactivating in 1945.

In 1985, the 361st Squadron was consolidated with the 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron. The 461st had been activated in 1956 as the 461st Fighter-Day Squadron and served as a fighter unit in Europe until 1959. It served as a training unit in Arizona starting in 1977. The consolidated unit was inactivated in 1994, but was activated again in its current role in 2006.


The 461st Squadron tests aircraft systems at Edwards Air Force Base.[1]


World War II[edit]

The squadron was organized and trained in the Northeast United States by First Air Force. During training it was a part of the northeast air defense, linking it to the New York and Boston Fighter Wings.

North American P-51s of the 361st Fighter Squadron in protective revetments at RAF Martlesham Heath, England, 1944.

The 461st Squadron was deployed to England aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth and served in combat as a part of the VIII Fighter Command from October 1943 to May 1945. The 461st ran operations in preparation for the invasion of the European continent; they supported the landings in Normandy and the Allied drive across France and Germany. The squadron flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolts until they were replaced by North American P-51 Mustangs in November 1944.[citation needed] Aircraft of the 461st were identified by a magenta/blue diamond pattern around their cowling, carrying fuselage code QI.[2]

From October 1943 until January 1944 the squadron operated as escort for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers that attacked industrial areas, missile sites, airfields, and communications.[1]

Fighters from the 461st engaged primarily in bombing and strafing missions after 3 January 1944. Its targets included U-boat installations, barges, shipyards, aerodromes, hangars, marshaling yards, locomotives, trucks, oil facilities, flak towers, and radar stations. The 461st bombed and strafed the Arnhem, Netherlands area on 17, 18, and 23 September 1944 in order to neutralize enemy gun emplacements that were providing support to Allied ground forces during Operation Market-Garden. In early 1945, the squadron's Mustangs clashed with German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet aircraft.[1] The squadron flew its last combat mission, escorting B-17's dropping propaganda leaflets, on 7 May 1945.[citation needed]

The squadron remained in the United Kingdom during the balance of 1945, most personnel were demobilized and returned to the United States, with aircraft being sent to storage facilities in the UK. The squadron was inactivated at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts on 10 November 1945.[1]

Fighter operations in Europe[edit]

Squadron F-100Ds at Hahn AB

The 461st Fighter-Day Squadron was reactivated at Landstuhl Air Base, West Germany during February 1956, equipped with North American F-100 Super Sabres, being one of the first United States Air Forces Europe squadrons equipped with supersonic jet aircraft. The aircraft carried three black diagonal stripes on the tail. Between 1956-1959, it conducted air superiority and general support missions as directed by Twelfth Air Force and, later by United States Air Forces in Europe. It also maintained and trained forces for a limited fighter-bomber capability with basic air-to-air weapons. The squadron was inactivated in August 1959.[1]

Fighter training[edit]

Squadron F-15 Eagle[note 1]

The 461st was reactivated on 1 July 1977 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona as a Replacement Training Unit (RTU) for the McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle, conducting fighter aircraft aircrew training for pilots. The improved F-15C/D model arrived in 1982 for pilot training. In 1985 the Air Force consolidated the 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron with the World War II 361st Fighter Squadron,[1] giving the squadron a combat heritage and lineage.

In the late 1980s, the F-15E Strike Eagle dual-role version of the F-15C arrived at Luke. The 461st received the first new F‑15E on 12 April 1988. The squadron continued to gain aircraft and the first F‑15E transition class graduated on 24 February 1989. Once qualified, the crews were reassigned to an operational squadron at the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. It was inactivated on 5 August 1994[1] as part of the phase-down of F-15 training at Luke.

A KC-46A Pegasus connects with a 461st Squadron F-35 Lightning II in the skies over California Jan. 22, 2019

Flight test[edit]

The squadron was reactivated at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in 2006. Its mission is flight testing aircraft, primarily the F-35 Lightning II.[1]

On 22 January 2019, a Boeing KC-46 Pegasus from the 418th Flight Test Squadron made connection with an F-35A from the 461st Flight Test Squadron. It is the first time the KC-46 connected with a fifth-generation jet fighter.[4]


361st Fighter Squadron
  • Constituted as the 361st Fighter Squadron on 8 December 1942
Activated on 12 December 1942
Redesignated 361st Fighter Squadron, Single Engine on 20 September 1944
Inactivated on 11 November 1945
  • Consolidated with the 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron as the 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron on 19 September 1985[1]
461st Flight Test Squadron
  • Constituted as the 461st Fighter-Day Squadron on 30 December 1955
Activated on 8 February 1956
Redesignated 461st Tactical Fighter Squadron on 8 July 1958
Inactivated on 1 August 1959
  • Redesignated 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron on 15 July 1976
Activated on 1 July 1977
  • Consolidated with the 361st Fighter Squadron on 19 September 1985
Redesignated 461st Fighter Squadron on 1 November 1991
Inactivated on 5 August 1994
  • Redesignated 461st Flight Test Squadron on 23 October 2006
Activated on 27 October 2006[1]




See also[edit]



  1. ^ Aircraft is McDonnell Douglas F-15E-43-MC Strike Eagle serialk 87-169.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Robertson, Patsy (19 December 2007). "Factsheet 461 Flight Test Squadron (AFMC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Watkins, pp. 68-69
  3. ^ See Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 449. (no approved emblem)
  4. ^ Thuloweit, Kenji. "KC-46 Pegasus connects with fifth-generation fighter". Edwards AFB. Archived from the original on 15 February 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b Station number in Anderson


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

Further reading

External links[edit]