Air Warfare Center
Headquarters, Air Warfare Center, remains at Nellis, and reports to Air Combat Command.
The Air Warfare Center, established in October 1995 and located at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, manages advanced pilot training and integrates many of the Air Force's test and evaluation requirements. It was established in 1966 as the USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center which concentrated on the development of forces and weapons systems that were specifically geared to tactical air operations in conventional (non-nuclear) war and contingencies. It continued to perform this mission for nearly thirty years, undergoing several name changes in the 1990s. In 1991, the center became the USAF Fighter Weapons Center, and then the USAF Weapons and Tactics Center in 1992.
The Air Warfare Center uses the lands on Nellis Air Force Range Complex - which occupies about three million acres of land, the largest such range in the United States, and another five-million-acre military operating area which is shared with civilian aircraft. The center also uses Eglin AFB, FL, range, which adds even greater depth to the center's capabilities, providing over water and additional electronic expertise to the center. The Air Warfare Center oversees operations of the 57th Wing and 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis and the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, FL.
The 57th Wing is responsible for a variety of activities at Nellis, such as Red Flag, which provides realistic training in a combined air, ground and electronic threat environment for U.S. and allied forces; and the USAF Weapons School which provides Air Force graduate-level training for A-10, B-1, B-52, EC-130, F-15, F-15E, F-16, HH-60, RC-135, Command and Control Operations, Intelligence and Space weapons instructor, academic and flying courses. The Wing also plans and executes close air support missions, such as Air Warrior, in support of U.S. Army exercises and interoperability training with the Army; oversees the Air Force's air demonstration team the Thunderbirds; and the operation and deployment of the Predator, an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The Wing also flies HH-60G PAVEHAWK helicopters in support of combat rescue as well as rescue in the Nellis Air Force Range Complex and nearby civilian communities.
The 53d Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, serves as the focal point for the combat air forces in electronic combat, armament and avionics, chemical defense, reconnaissance, command and control, and aircrew training devices. The wing is also responsible for operational testing and evaluation of new equipment and systems proposed for use by these forces. Current wing initiatives include advanced self-protection systems for combat aircraft, aircrew life support systems, aerial reconnaissance improvements, new armament and weapons delivery systems, improved maintenance equipment and logistics support, enhanced training and exercising of the Joint Forces Air Component Commander team and new methods for test and evaluation command and control systems and concepts of operation. The 53d Wing numbers about 2,700 military and civilians at 25 various locations throughout the United States.
The 99th Air Base Wing is the host wing at Nellis and manages the day-to-day operations of the base, such as contracting, supply and transportation functions at Nellis, medical care for the military community, civil engineer, security forces, communications and services for Nellis, Tonopah Test Range and Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field. The Wing also operates, maintains and develops three geographically separated electronic scoring sites, an instrumentation support facility and the three million acre Nellis Air Force Range Complex, including two emergency airfields.
The Southeast Asian war (Vietnam) had begun by the early 1960s, and Tactical Air Command needed to improve technical and operational skills for the widening war. TAC decided to concentrate expertise and resources in Centers committed to specific mission areas. These dedicated units could work full-time on the test and development of technical and operational aspects of weapons systems. The new arrangement replaced a fragmented process that sometimes did not allow fresh developments to get into use. This new system gave TAC a resource for developing and testing tactics, weapons systems, and the like, that was immediately responsive to increasing and changing demands from the war.
These master Centers had small headquarters staffs that could absorb increasing war pressures with minimal reorganization. TAC decided to assign particular tasks to individual bases, which would be dedicated to that specific responsibility. The command saw the policy as cost-effective, centralizing the technical experts and dedicating specialized resources in single locations.
The Centers' responsibilities went along then-current operational doctrine, such as a center for counter-insurgency operations, a center for reconnaissance, a center for airlift, and a center for fighter operations.
TAC established the Tactical Fighter Weapons Center at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, for fighter operations. It had been the "Home of the Fighter Pilot" since the Korean War days of the early 1950s, and conducted postgraduate fighter training and operational testing and evaluation of fighter weapons systems. Additionally, the Nellis range, largest in the free world, complemented the new Center's mission. It was a logical placement.
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