Re: Red Hats

Message posted by Peter Merlin on November 07, 2010 at 11:50:17 PST:

As most people on this board probably know, the National Classified Test Facility at Groom Lake owes its existence as an Air Force base largely to the foreign materiel exploitation (FME) programs. These began in the late 1960s while the CIA still operated Area 51 as joint CIA-DIA-USAF-USN FME projects. The USAF Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, was the lead agency.

The early FME efforts were fairly modest, starting with a small cadre of pilots flying the MiG-21 against U.S. combat aircraft in technical and tactical evaluations in 1968. This was followed with the acquisition of a couple of MiG-17s the following year. During the 1970s, more airplanes were acquired and the program got so large that Air Force Systems Command and Tactical Air Command each formed squadrons (Red Hats and Red Eagles) to test the MiGs. Navy pilots came from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four (VX-4) at NAS Point Mugu, California.

Eventually, the Red Eagles concentrated on the CONSTANT PEG training program at Tonopah Test Range (exposing more than 6,000 U.S. aircrew to dissimilar air combat against actual foreign aircraft) while the Red Hats continued technical evaluations at Groom Lake. The CONSTANT PEG program was terminated in 1988 due to budget cuts but the Red Eagles continued to exist as a detachment of various parent organizations (as they still do).

Now, I had thought that this signaled a reduction in FME programs in general but this is not the case. The program actually saw a resurgence in the late 1980s. Within a decade, it had become the largest effort, and highest priority program at Groom Lake. The results have been briefed at every level from the warfighter up to the White House.

I assume the goal is to collect as much information as possible on the current capabilities of any foreign air force that the U.S. might have to face in combat. When the FME programs started in the 1960s, we were trying to catch up after stunning losses in Southeast Asia. Now, we are probably trying to maintain an edge and stay ahead of the game.

In Reply to: Red Hats posted by RickB on November 05, 2010 at 14:22:40 PST:


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