Happy Friday, FighterSweep fans! It’s time for another installment of Burner Friday! This week’s dose of awesome is courtesy of the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron.
The “Skulls” trace their lineage back to 1942 when they were activated as the 85th Pursuit Squadron (Pursuit) on 9 February 1942 at Dale Mabry Field, FL. They bounced around quite a bit in their first few years, and while doing so, flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
It was in those venerable P-40s and P-47s the 85th saw their first combat action. The Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) was predominantly their home and they saw a good portion of it during those years. The unit spent time based in North Africa–specifically Libya and Tunisia, as well as Malta and Italy while supporting campaigns in and around the Med. They also spent brief stints further north in France and Austria.
In 1947, the unit would be inactivated as many units were after the end of World War II. It wasn’t long before they were back in the swing of things, though. The “Skulls” were reactivated in the air defense role as the 85th Fighter Interceptor squadron in 1952. While supporting this mission they flew F-51’s for parts of 1952 and 1953. Later in 1953 the 85th would transition to the F-86 Sabre, an aircraft they would operate until their next inactivation in 1959.
Since 1971, the 85th has been responsible for conducting operational test and evaluation, tactics development and programs for a number of aircraft including the F-15C Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-16CM Fighting Falcon aircraft. Utilizing specially instrumented aircraft, the 85th tests and evaluates current and future weapons, associated electronic warfare subsystems, the newest air-to ground munitions, air-to-air missiles, electronic warfare systems, and associated subcomponents and avionics.
It provides operational fighter expertise to U.S. Air Force Headquarters, DoD agencies, and the aerospace industry in the development of future aircraft and employment techniques and concepts. The 85th’s core competencies are air-to-air missile employment and tactics, suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses and lethal precision engagement.