Holloman AFB [née Alamogordo AAF]
Holloman is located in New Mexico's Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andreas mountain ranges. The base is about 10 miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico, on route 70/82; 90 miles north of El Paso, Texas; 70 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The base covers 59,639 acres of land and is located at an altitude of 4,093 feet. Holloman is home to the world's longest, 50,188 feet (almost 10 miles), and fastest, approaching 10,000 feet per second (Mach 9), Test Track.
Holloman Air Force Base is located approximately 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of El Paso, Texas, and 27 miles (43 kilometers) west of Alamogordo, New Mexico. The nearest major airport is in El Paso and has several major airlines. Alamogordo has a small regional airport and one small airline that stops at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Holloman AFB is located in high desert country at an average elevation of about 4200 feet (1250 meters). There are approximately 300 square miles of mountainous terrain with peaks extending up to 9,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL). The mountains are covered with short- to medium-height vegetation on the east side with very little vegetation on the west side, which consists of 2000+ foot vertical cliffs. The desert floor is relatively flat with low vegetation and is nominally between 4000 and 5000 MSL. The maximum temperature can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and a minimum of zero degrees in the winter. Typically, the weather is pleasant, and there is very little test time lost to bad weather.
Located on the eastern edge at the southern part of WSMR, Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) occupies 24,153 ha (59,639 acres) of land and houses 4,900 military, 870 civilian personnel, and is home to 380 members of the German Air Force. HAFB is home to F-117 (Stealth) fighters and is a WSMR Range customer. HAFB overflies virtually all of WSMR and utilizes the Red Rio and Oscura Bombing Areas in the northeast corner of WSMR, and YONDER Impact Area in the San Andres Mountains. HAFB shares boundaries with White Sands National Monument and WSMR and interacts regularly in various mission activities.
Holloman Air Force Base operates the Radar Target Scatter (RATSCAT) and RATSCAT Advanced Measurements (RAMS) facilities, and utilizes the Red Rio and Oscura Bombing Ranges, Yonder, and WSMR airspace for training. For WSMR areas used for HAFB training cooperates with WSMR and funds and executes certain natural resources projects.
In 1992, Holloman Air Force Base again garnered national attention when the Air Force's most technological fighter, the F-117A Nighthawk made its new home at Holloman. Holloman Air Force Base continues to serve at the forefront of military operations, with its F-117 "stealth" aircraft and serving as the training center for the German Air Force's Tactical Training Center.
Ground was broken at Holloman on Aug. 13, 1991, just 10 months before the first of the Air Force's fleet of F-117s arrived. The first eight F-117s arrived to a rousing welcome by the base and surrounding communities on May 9, 1992. By summer's end, all but eight of the aircraft had reached Holloman. Because the permanent hangars were still being constructed, the F-117s were placed in "clamshells," temporary hangars. The last eight F-117s were still in Southwest Asia, poised to go back into action on a moment's notice. Six of those final eight participated in a punitive strike against Iraq in January 1992. Those eight found their way from Saudi Arabia to Holloman on July 13,1993.
With its transfer to Holloman the F-117 unit was designated the 49th Fighter Wing. Its three squadrons were named the 7th, 8th and 9th fighter squadrons -- the units that made up the 49th Pursuit Group in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
On 1 May 1996, the German Air Force Tactical Training Center was established in concept with the 20th Fighter Squadron which provides aircrew training in the F-4F Phantom II. The TTC serves as the parent command for two German air crew training squadrons. The F-4 Training Squadron oversees all German F-4 student personal affairs, and provides German instructor pilots to cooperate in the contracted F-4 training program provided by the US Air Force (20th Fighter Squadron). A second TTC unit, the Tornado Training Squadron, provides academic and tactical flying training, by German Air Force instructors, for German Tornado aircrews. The first contingent of Tornado aircraft arrived at Holloman in March 1996. More than 300 German Air Force members are permanently assigned at Holloman to the TTC--the only unit of its kind in the United States. The German Air Force selected Holloman as an additional training site for its Tornado aircraft, and construction facilitated the maintenance and troubleshooting of the aircraft and related weapons systems. When the second phase was completed 2000, 30 more Tornado aircraft were stationed here, bringing the total to 42.
The Tactical Training Center was redesignated the German Air Force Flying Training Center July 1, 1999 in conjunction with its growing mission, and officially activate on March 31, 2000. All expenses involved in the Tornado and F-4 programs, including more than $140 million in construction, are paid by the German government. There are no specific costs to US taxpayers associated with either of these programs. All flying operations are subject to the control of Holloman's host US Air Force commander and are subject to all applicable Air Force and federal regulations and statutes. All activity in military airspace and ranges is controlled by the appropriate US authority for those areas. In addition, while in the US , all German military personnel are subject to the laws of the US Government.
Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) occupies 11 square miles in the northwest area of Holloman AFB and is adjacent to the 4000-square-mile White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). During operations, HHSTT restricts 1000 feet of airspace above the track for safety. Access to the track is limited during preparation and operations. HHSTT has supported up to SECRETSAR projects. The air space over the area is closed to all civilian air traffic and can be closed to all air traffic when requested. HHSTT is a one-of-a-kind aerospace ground facility.
Test capabilities include the following:
- Aircraft: crew escape, airblast, birdstrike, aeropropulsion, munitions launch, and infrared countermeasures
- Missile: guidance systems, aerodynamics, aeroelastics, dispensers, seekers, and components
- Life support systems: crew modules, decelerators, parachutes, ballutes/paraloons, canopies, and catapults
- Erosion: rain, dust/particle, hail, transpiration cooling, material ablation, heatshields, radomes, electro-optical windows, and re-entry phenomena
- Impact: warhead, fuse sensitivity, kinetic energy penetrators, hit-to-kill vehicles, hit sensors, survivability/vulnerability, and lethality.
HHSTT support resources encompass all the engineering, analysis, and manufacturing support a customer will likely need. HHSTT can provide the engineering design for a test, including the mechanical and aerodynamic aspects using modern CAD/CAM equipment. Fabrication shops can perform all the machining, sheet metal work, welding, heat treatment, and NDI that may be needed. HHSTT can provide the propulsion vehicles, heavy equipment, and geodetics for the test build-up, as well as perform instrument calibration, telemetry, photography, event timing (msec), and data processing/analysis.
The Radar Target Scatter [RATSCAT] Division is a one-of-a-kind facility combining the best in monostatic and bistatic radar cross section (RCS) measurements. Located on White Sands Missile Range, it is ideally situated to provide precision signature measurements of low observable weapon systems.
RATSCAT consists of two separate but complementary test sites. Mainsite, located on the alkali flats region of WSMR, provides the capability of measuring full-scale models and flyable aircraft weighing up to 100,000 pounds (220,000 kg). On-site radars provide frequency coverage from 140 MHz to 18 GHz with spot coverage at 35 and 94 Ghz. Two ground bounce ranges are available with monostatic and bistatic test locations up to 7500 feet from the radars. RATSCAT Advanced Measurement System (RAMS) is located 35 miles northwest of Mainsite at the base of the San Andres mountains. RAMS is the premier outdoor static range for measuring low and very low observable targets at both low and high frequencies. The 8900-foot paved shadow range has two separate radar systems covering 120 MHz to 18 GHz with spot frequency coverage at 35 GHz. The retractable pylon can handle targets weighing up to 30,000 pounds (66,000 kg).
Because of their remote locations, both sites are ideal for testing highly sensitive targets. Security is integral to the operations at both sites. Several special facilities are available to store, paint, and repair customers' targets, as well as fabricate frequency tuned columns and sub-scale models. Ground access is controlled through multiple guard posts, and civil air traffic access is prohibited.
The Central Inertial Guidance Test Facility (CIGTF) is located adjacent to WSMR which has restricted airspace from surface to unlimited. The area is seismically stable to the micro-g region, as required for precision guidance and navigation system testing. The CIGTF complex consists of 10 buildings on approximately 227,000 square feet of real estate. The laboratory operates three centrifuge test beds, with and without counterrotating platforms, subjecting test items to sustained acceleration environments up to 30g, 50g, and 100g. CIGTF uses a variety of reference systems to provide accurate Time Space Position Information in conducting its laboratory, van, sled, and aircraft tests. CIGTF Support Resources include a simulation laboratory, GPS satellite reference station, data analysis stations, and three state-of-the-art Portable Field Jamming Systems. The facility offers indepth test-article performance evaluation and analysis capability in support of its GPS integration mission. CIGTF uses the highly accurate sled track for testing precision guidance systems and validating post-mission filters, smoothers, and reference systems.
Ground zero at Trinity Site is the spot where the world changed. It is where the first atomic bomb exploded. The story of Trinity Site, on the north end of White Sands Missile Range in Southern New Mexico, began in June 1942 with the establishment of the Manhattan Project. The goal of the project was to design and build a nuclear weapon, which noted immigrant scientists such as Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi said was possible. At the time, the project was a race to beat the Germans who, according to intelligence reports, were building thcir own atomic bomb.
Los Alamos National Laboratory was established in northern New Mexico to design and build the bomb. Los Alamos scientists designed bombs using uranium and plutonium. The uranium bomb was a simple design and scientists were confident it would work without testing. The plutonium bomb, in contrast, was more complex and worked by compressing the plutonium into a critical mass using high explosives. Manhattan Project leaders decided a test of the plutonium bomb was essential before it could be used as a weapon.
From a list of eight sites in four states, Trinity Site was chosen tor the test. The area already was controlled by the government because it was part of the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, established in 1942 to train bomber crews. In the fall of 1944, soldiers started arriving at Trinity Site to prepare for the test. Life at Trinity Site was frustrating for most of the soldiers. They wanted to contribute to the war effort and being stuck in the desert without a clue as to why was not their idea of being useful. Most did not find out about the bomb until the actual test.
To calibrate the instruments that would be used to practice a countdown and later measure the atomic explosion, the Manhattan scientists ran a simulated blast on May 7. They stacked 100 tons of TNT onto a 20-foot wooden platform just southeast of ground zero. The explosion destroyed the platform, leaving a small crater.
Two months later, scientists prepared for the real test as two hemispheres of plutonium were delivered to the George McDonald ranch house just two miles from ground zero. On the Friday before the test, the plutonium core was taken to ground zero for insertion into the bomb. On the first try, the device stuck. But after letting the temperatures of the plutonium and casing equalize, the core slid smoothly into place.
The next morning the 5,000 pound bomb was raised to the top of a 100-foot steel tower and placed in a small shelter. Three observation points wooden shelters protected by concrete and earth were established at 10,000 yards from ground zero. The south bunker served as the control center for the test. The automatic firing device was triggered from there as key players in the project watched.
Most scientists and support personnel, including Groves, watched the explosion from a base camp about 10 miles from ground zero. Most VlPs watched from Compania Hill, about 20 miles away. The test was scheduled for 4 a.m., July 16, but rain and lightning early that morning caused it to be postponed.
Just over an hour later the countdown started, and the device exploded successfully at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time with a yield of 22 kilotons of TNT. To most observers. the brilliance of the light from the explosion watched through dark glasses overshadowed the shock wave and sound that arrived later. At ground zero the 100-foot steel tower was instantly vaporized. The explosion dug a huge crater about a quarter-mile across and six feet deep; its surface was covered with green glass created as the sand melted in the intense heat. The glass was later dubbed "Trinitite."
The flash of light from the explosion was seen and heard hundrews of miles away. The shock wave broke windows in Silver City NM, about 120 miles away. The Army kept the test secret by announcing that an ammunition dump had exploded at the Alamogordo Bombing Range. The true story was not released to the public until the United States bombed Hiroshima, Japan, with a uranium bomb on Aug. 6, 1945.
Interest in the site was immediate and has remained high. Missile testing in the area at what is now White Sands Missile Range kept the site from becoming a national monument. But the range has opened the site to the public regularly for 35 years on the first Saturdays in April and October. Today the crater no longer exists. A lava obelisk about 14 feet high marks ground zero, the spot on the ground amid the four legs of the steel tower. Most of the Trinitite was scraped up and removed in 1952. However, missile range personnel have uncovered several square feet of the original crater floor which has been protected under a foot of sand in a small shelter during the past 50 years. The site is still radioactive and the missile range provides radiological health technicians to educate visitors at open houses. But in truth, the area's radioactivity is relatively low; a visitor who spends one hour at ground zero receives less than half the radiation received during a cross-country airline flight.
Alamogordo Army Air Field was established at a site six miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico on June 10, 1942. Initial plans called for the base to serve as the center for the British Overseas Training program; the British hoped to be able to train their aircrews over the open New Mexico skies. However, everything changed when the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the Hawaiian Islands on December 7, 1941. The British decided to no longer pursue its overseas training program, and the United States military saw the location as an opportunity to train its own growing military. Construction began at the airfield on February 6, 1942 and forces began to move in on May 14, 1942.
From 1942-1945, Alamogordo Army Air Field served as the training grounds for over 20 different groups, flying primarily B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s. Typically, these groups served at the airfield for about six months, training their personnel before heading to combat in either the Pacific or European Theater. The 450th Bombardment Group was one of the many to cut its teeth at Alamogordo. After training, the group went on to serve in nearly every major combat operation in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans. During their combat service, the 450th garnered two distinguished unit citations and 11 campaign credits.
After World War II, the future of the base was uncertain. In fact, rumors spread concerning the closure of the site, fueled by the fact that most operations had ceased. However, in 1947, a new era began when Air Materiel Command announced the air field would be its primary site for the testing and development of pilot less aircraft, guided missiles, and other research programs. For the next 25 years the site, which became known as the Holloman Air Development Center, and later the Air Force Missile Development Center, launched many missiles including Tiny Tim (the first Army rocket), Rascal, V-2, XQ-2 Drone, Falcon, MACE, Matador, and Shrike.
On January 13, 1948 the Alamogordo installation was renamed Holloman Air Force Base, in honor of the late Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research.
Holloman Air Force Base wrote its name into the annals of American history in the 1950s and 1960s. On December 10, 1954, Lt Col (Dr.) John P. Stapp received the nickname "The Fastest Man Alive" when he rode a rocket propelled test sled, Sonic Wind No. 1, to a speed of 632 miles per hour. Additionally, Captain Joseph W. Kittinger Jr. stepped out of an open balloon gondola at 102,800 feet on August 16, 1960, in an attempt to evaluate techniques of high altitude bailout. Capt Kittinger's jump lasted 13 minutes reaching a velocity of 614 miles per hour. That jump broke four world records: highest open gondola manned balloon flight, highest balloon flight of any kind, highest bailout, and longest free fall.
On January 31, 1961, HAM, a three-year-old chimpanzee, blasted off from Cape Canaveral to altitude of 157 miles inside a Mercury-Redstone capsule, as a final check to man-rate a capsule and launch vehicle. HAM thus became the first chimpanzee to go into space. A final noteworthy event occurred on November 29, 1961, when ENOS, a chimpanzee trained at Holloman's HAM facility (Holloman Aero-Medical laboratory), was the first US specimen launched into orbit. ENOS was launched in a Mercury-Atlas capsule that completed two orbits around the earth and was safely recovered three hours, 21 minutes later.
Another new era began in the Tularosa Basin on 1 July 1968, when the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing arrived at Holloman Air Force Base. The 49th's F-4 Phantom IIs introduced a new era of fighter aircraft training and operations, which continued for the next three decades and until today. In 1977 the 49th transitioned to the F-15 Eagle, the Air Force's top air-to-air weapon.
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