Air Armament Center

Air Armament Center
AIM-120 AMRAAM air-air missile
developed at the Air Armament Center
Active16 October 1943 – 18 July 2012
CountryUnited States
BranchUnited States Air Force
RoleWeapons Sustainment
Part ofAir Force Materiel Command
BaseEglin Air Force Base
Major General Kenneth D. Merchant
(final commander)
Air Armament Center emblem

The Air Armament Center (AAC) was an Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, responsible for development, acquisition, testing, and deployment of all air-delivered weapons for the U.S. Air Force. Weapon systems maintained by the center included the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, High-speed anti-radiation missile, HARM Targeting System, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, Sensor Fuzed Weapon, and the Small Diameter Bomb.[1] The Air Armament Center was inactivated as an AFMC center on 18 July 2012, and its functions merged into the former 96th Air Base Wing at Eglin AFB. The new organization was renamed as the 96th Test Wing (96 TW) the same day as a subordinate command of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.[2]


On 15 May 1940, the Air Corps Specialized Flying School at Eglin Field was redesignated the Air Corps Proving Ground.[3] It was redesignated Proving Ground Command on 1 April 1942.[4]: 15 

In 1989, Mueller said the AAF Tactical Center was designated earlier on 16 October and that it and the subsequent AAF Center were different commands. For example, he cites AAF School of Applied Tactics, c. Mar 1942 (redesignated AAF Tactical Center, 16 Oct 1942) then AAF Center, 1 June 1945.[5]

On 27 October 1942 the United States Army Air Forces established the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida. The next year, it was redesignated as the Army Air Forces Tactical Center, on 16 October 1943. In the last days of the war, it was redesignated the Army Air Forces Center, and documentation of the period appears to indicate that the AAF Proving Ground Command at Eglin Field, Florida and the Army Air Forces Center at Orlando AAB were merged as Army Air Forces Center on 1 June 1945.

The Air Force Center was the planned USAF unit for the development of tactical policy and procedures. The Air Force Center was to be the succeeding unit to the USAAF Army Air Forces Tactical Center, established on October 28, 1943,[4]: 335  and which had become the Army Air Forces Center on 1 June 1945.[4] Instead, the AAF Center merged into Proving Ground Command (PGC) to form a new Army Air Forces Proving Ground Command on 8 March 1946.[6] The AAF PGC was redesignated the Air Proving Ground Command on 10 July 1946, and raised to major command status. The APGC was moved to the now renamed Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on 1 July 1948.

Testing of weapons[edit]

APGC conducted realistic testing of new weapons as an independent organization, reporting directly to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and advocating a "fly-before-buy" approach to acquiring new systems. Such a shift, however, remained a challenge, for the Air Force continued the "buy-fly-fix" process that had grown from the demands of the Second World War and undervalued the importance of timely independent operational test and evaluation.

APGC attempted to simulate combat conditions during its tests. It also grew in size as it acquired the systems it tested. By 1956, Air Force regulations outlined an eight-phase test and evaluation process that did not include the APGC until phase seven. By that point in the acquisition cycle, the Air Force had often already fielded units with new systems that APGC had not yet tested. Not surprisingly, operators often experienced serious problems with these new, untested systems. This led to a misperception about the value of operational test and evaluation (OT&E) and APGC. Had OT&E taken place before production decisions and fielding new systems, there likely would not have been any question about the added value of independent OT&E.

As a result of the doubts about the value of APGC and cuts to the defense budget, in 1957 the Air Force stripped APGC of its major command status, reduced its budget and authorized personnel, and redesignated the Command the Air Proving Ground Center, and assigned it to the Air Research and Development Command. This action meant the Air Force no longer had an independent organization that specialized in impartial operational test and evaluation.

Decentralized operational testing at the major commands occurred from 1958 to 1973. Major command emphasis was often on quick deployment rather than thorough testing and impartial evaluations. Although the Air Force streamlined OT&E from eight to three phases during this period, OT&E still came at the end of the acquisition process. In addition, as systems became more complex, and the Air Force moved to acquire systems quickly, the "fly-before-buy" approach fell by the wayside. The consequences became clear when a Department of Defense study found that 21 of 22 major weapons systems used in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1970 suffered severe operational deficiencies. These results strongly stated the case for independent OT&E in the Air Force.

The AAC was a focal point for the acquisition of advanced weapons systems. The center carried out scientific research, system management, production, operational performance, business management, requirements definition, customer and engineering support, technology planning, materiel identification, and field support activities.

While "fly-before-buy" has repeatedly proven its worth in thorough testing of systems and avoidance of later problems, the Air Force even in the twenty-first century remains severely hampered by a "buy-fly-fix" approach. Literally billions of dollars have been spent in making weapons systems operational after they have entered squadron service. For example, the Rockwell B-1B Lancer suffered repeated such problems. When declared operational, apart from nuclear weapons, the only conventional weapon the B-1 could use were free-fall bombs.

Structure through 2010[edit]

To accomplish its mission the Air Armament Center commanded three wings through 2010.


Redesignated: Army Air Forces Tactical Center on 16 October 1943
Redesignated: Army Air Forces Center on 1 June 1945
Redesignated: Army Air Forces Proving Ground Command on 8 March 1946[7]
Redesignated: Air Proving Ground Command on 10 July 1946
Redesignated: Air Proving Ground, 20 January 1948, losing major command status
Regained major command status, 1 June 1948
Redesignated: Air Proving Ground Command on 29 December 1951
Redesignated: Air Proving Ground Center on 1 December 1957, losing major command status
Redesignated: Armament Development and Test Center on 1 August 1968
Redesignated: Armament Division on 1 October 1979
Redesignated: Munitions Systems Division on 15 March 1989
Redesignated: Air Force Development Test Center on 11 July 1990
Redesignated: Air Armament Center on 1 October 1998[6]
Inactivated on 1 October 2012





Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency

  1. ^ Eglin Air Force Base Air Armament Center Fact Sheet Archived 13 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ The 1944 AAF handbook, p. 357
  4. ^ a b c Arnold, Henry H. (June 1944) [May 1944]. AAF: The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces (Special Edition for AAF Organizations). New York: Pocket Books. p. 16. Oct. 28. AAF Tactical Center established at Orlando, Fla.
  5. ^ Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases: Eglin Air Force Auxiliary Field #9 (Hurlburt Field) (PDF) (Report). Vol. I: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Office of Air Force History. p. 129. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "Factsheet Air Proving Ground Command". Air Force Historical Research Agency. 10 January 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  7. ^ Replaced another AAF Proving Ground Command that was disbanded

External links[edit]