The 40th had been a fighter squadron ever since the start of WWII. In the late seventies the squadron began to test equipment for the A-7 attack aircraft. In 1982 the unit was disbanded in favor of the 3247th TS who took over the legacy and the squadron patch of the 40th. A decade later, in 1992 - the opposite maneuver was executed and the 40th FLTS was reactivated again inheriting the legacy of the 3247th TS. As the 3247th, the 40th was tasked with testing different weapon systems on the F-16 and therefore a number of different blocks were in the inventory, ranging from the early block 1 versions to the later advanced block 50 versions. This setup might be seen as a logistical nightmare, but it did provide the squadron a valuable asset in conducting the mission it was set out to perform.
From 1992 onwards different weapon systems were tested on the F-16 over the years. Together with its sister squadron - the 39th - the AIM-120 missile was tested on earlier block types and the advanced development of the AIM-120 versions throughout the inventory. Every time a new block type of the AMRAAM became available, the squadron had to perform the same system checks to see whether predicted flight performance was met. Since that time numerous other weapons systems have been tested with the 40th FLTS. This included the AGM-142 ‘Have Nap’, the AGM-84 ‘Harpoon’, the AGM-154 ‘JSOW’, the GBU-15 ‘Hobos’ and numerous other weapons. This testing is not solely limited to weapon systems only. Also software upgrades of the aircraft themselves are tested as is new equipment, for example a new AIFF transponder, and the impact this has on existing weapons. Also external aids like navigation pods or targeting pods and reconnaissance pods are tested in conjunction with weapons systems.
After testing conformal fuel tanks (CFT) at Edwards during 2001, the testing moved to Eglin's 40th Test Squadron. Edwards tested the CFTs empty to ensure no major performance changes and flutter control. A single F-16C was used to test the CFT in Florida during the time period of January 2002 to October 2002. A total of 53 test flights were performed using a variety of configurations paved the way for the CFT's to become a common upgrade in further F-16 production acquisitions.
Rare photograph of an Eglin based F-16C block 40
, involved in GBU-15 tests - note the absence of the gun [Photo by Nate QQ]
Since the disbandment of the 39th FLTS, some 40th aircraft are seen with the blue diamonds in the white tailband instead of the original red ones. Both are used in conjunction to each other. Besides this the unit also flies with versions of the F-15 aircraft making it a composite test squadron all together. Most weapons that have to be tested on the F-16 have to be tested on the F-15 as well. So both programs run mostly simultaneous. As long as the F-16 remains in front line service it is likely this squadron will continue F-16 operations. There have been no announcements if this squadron will continue when the F-35 enters front line service.
USAF F-16C block 25 #83-1163
from the 40th FLTS - with blue instead of red diamond - is taking off from NAS
Fort Worth on November 19th, 2008. [Photo by Scott Fisher]