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846th Test Squadron pioneers aerospace testing

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Ferrari
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

The 846th Test Squadron is a renowned squadron that has played a pivotal role in advancing technology and safety standards across the Department of Defense. It was formed in response to the escalating demands of modern warfare and the rapidly evolving nature of aerospace technology.

The Holloman High Speed Test Track, an approximately ten-mile track is used to test advanced aerospace systems like rocket sleds at extreme speeds under rigorous environmental conditions.

The HHSTT test capabilities include hypersonic munitions, crew escape, guidance systems, directed energy, article dispense, electronic combat, environmental effects and aerodynamics.

“We’re the only ten-mile test track in the Department of Defense,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ida Rice, 846th TS senior enlisted leader. “We can test certain things on a rail and then put it on an aircraft to flight-test it, which saves money for the Air Force because they don’t have the extra costs of flying.”

Established with the primary objective of conducting developmental testing and evaluation of cutting-edge aerospace systems, this squadron has continually pushed the boundaries of technological advancement and operational capability.

The 846th TS has been instrumental in conducting rigorous testing and evaluations of sleds and components of aircraft systems to ensure the safety, reliability, and performance of aircraft capabilities. This state-of-the-art squadron regularly conducts weapon testing, warhead lethality, ejection seats, parachutes, rocket catapults, safety and survival equipment, infrared countermeasures, flares and missile warning receivers. Environmental effects such as rain, ice, particle, aerothermal, high-G and explosive blasts are also tested here.

The track provides an environment where mechanical engineers and machinists can push materials assembled to their limits and beyond. The squadron's personnel exhibit a steadfast dedication to overcoming obstacles and achieving mission success.

“What I like about working here is seeing how we can contribute to the mission and the result of all the hard work that we put in these sleds,” said Tom Kanios, 846th TS machinist. “We help make weapons that help our guys win and I’m glad we’re working at a place that is at the cutting edge of technology with the latest weapons, manufacturing and delivery systems.”

The squadron is an environment to test hypersonic velocities and is fully staffed for test management, test design, engineering, hardware fabrication, support and analysis.

“We’re testing a range of hypersonic weapons to see if they can withstand certain speeds and weather conditions,” said Rice. “We do rainfall testing by simulating rain and sending things through at thousands of feet per second, testing the durability of the materials being pushed to withstand environmental factors.”

The 846th TS’s evaluation efforts have played a pivotal role in the operational effectiveness and safety of numerous aerospace systems, directly contributing to the overall readiness and lethality of the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s rocket science and that’s why I like working here,” said Rice. “Nowhere else in the Air Force do you get to set off a rocket to see what happens and we’re testing things that we know will get put into use long after I’m retired. It’s good to see the new things that are coming down the line that have the potential to protect more pilots' lives in the future or keep us safe as a country because we’re staying ahead of our competition.”