GOLDEN ARMS, AKA TEST PILOTS
Six Years that Changed Aerial Warfare
By Michael Williams with Lance Grace
Photographs by Michael Williams
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From 1989 to 1995, a small group of individuals with unique skill sets came together to support air-to-air/air-to-ground weapons testing over the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. Unwilling to maintain the status quo, they came up with innovative solutions to support test missions and became the best at what they did. One of the squadron’s pilots used to say, “We do it, because we can, and we did, because it was fun.” What an adventure to fly and do what others could only speculate about. With little notoriety, we helped advance stealth, global positioning systems (GPS), and missile technologies, while developing our own capabilities that no one thought possible. Instead of saying “why,” we said “why not,” and never settled for ordinary, but extraordinary. In time, our reputation grew as an organization that could always deliver. It was not rare for a project to come in and say, “Your reputation has preceded you, so don’t screw up.” They only wanted the same support they heard other groups had received before. This book is a pictorial history of that journey, by the actual people who participated, and preserved for you to appreciate and enjoy.
Michael Williams served fourteen years of a twenty-six year Air Force career as an aerial photographer, of which eleven were spent supporting Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) programs over military test ranges in Utah and New Mexico. As one of five Air Force flight test photographers documenting Department of Defense (DoD) inflight weapon systems tests from 1989 to 1995, he developed new techniques and technologies to capture data more efficiently, and helped advance our nation’s air power for today and tomorrow.
Lance Grace spent half of his twenty year Air Force career in the Flight Test arena. Being one of the first test pilots to fly and develop F-15 Strike Eagles at Edwards AFB, he brought a synergistic philosophy to Holloman AFB, where he became the youngest commander of an active Air Force flying squadron. Having little backing, Lance created a self-sustaining mission for the 586th Flight Test Squadron that continues to this day, including all operational and maintenance support for DoD missions staging out of Holloman for tests conducted over the White Sands Missile Range.
8 1/2 X 11 Illustrated, Color