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746th Test Squadron celebrates diamond anniversary

Lt. Col. Charles McNiel, 746th Test Squadron commander, shows a photo of Grady Nicholson, a former 46th Test Group engineer, during a 746th TS 60th anniversary event, Oct. 25, 2019, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The photo shows a picture of Nicholson burying the same time capsule they opened for the anniversary event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

Lt. Col. Charles McNiel, 746th Test Squadron commander, shows a photo of Grady Nicholson, a former 46th Test Group engineer, during a 746th TS 60th anniversary event, Oct. 25, 2019, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The photo shows a picture of Nicholson burying the same time capsule they opened for the anniversary event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

Sean Abrahamson, 746th Test Squadron test manager, gives guests a tour of the 746th TS facilities, Oct. 25, 2019, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The test squadron provided facility tours featuring test equipment and hardware, an aircraft flyover and opened a time capsule from 1963 as part of their 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

Sean Abrahamson, 746th Test Squadron test manager, gives guests a tour of the 746th TS facilities, Oct. 25, 2019, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The test squadron provided facility tours featuring test equipment and hardware, an aircraft flyover and opened a time capsule from 1963 as part of their 60th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

Sean Abrahamson, 746th Test Squadron test manager, shows event patrons a centrifuge used for testing, Oct. 25, 2019, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The 746th TS centrifuge testing uses multi-axis test tables to check inertial performance on navigations systems prior to testing in aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

Sean Abrahamson, 746th Test Squadron test manager, shows event patrons a centrifuge used for testing, Oct. 25, 2019, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The 746th TS centrifuge testing uses multi-axis test tables to check inertial performance on navigations systems prior to testing in aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Groening)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The 746th Test Squadron celebrated their 60th anniversary, Oct. 25, here.

The event was open to those with base access, and guests enjoyed variety of activities to include facility tours featuring test equipment and hardware, face painting, aircraft flyovers, live music and food.

“1959 was when this squadron was founded as the Central Inertial Guidance Test Facility,” said Lt. Col. Charles McNiel, 746th TS commander. “(The facility) existed before that, as a missile test facility.”

The squadron is known for being the Department of Defense’s go-to lead test organization, whom tests and evaluates GPS’s and integrated GPS based guidance and navigation systems.  

“Just before the Apollo 13 disaster, this squadron tested the inertial navigation system that they were using to navigate to the moon,” McNiel said. “They realized there was a pretty serious design flaw with it. If we had not identified the flaw and fixed the system before it went on Apollo 13, they would not been able to navigate after they had been blown off course.” 

Currently, nearly all military equipment with navigation systems, such as aircraft, ships, submarines and vehicles, visit the test squadron to ensure proper function.

“One of the first things that happens in a peer conflict is adversaries are going to try to contest GPS,” said McNiel. “Another big part of our mission that has grown considerably in the last 10 years is we jam GPS’s. We have the world’s most capable and high-capacity jamming capability. We go out and jam American and allied systems so they can see their vulnerabilities. Then they can go back and make fixes (to their equipment) to make them more resilient.”

The event featured a MQ-9 Reaper and T-38 Talon flyover. The aircraft are utilized for testing navigation system development in a flight environment, before bring placed in intended aircraft.

Distinguished visitors included Dr. Eileen Bjorkman, Air Force Test Center senior executive service at Edwards, Air Force Base, Calif., as she was the previous commander of the 746th TS from August 1996 to June 1998.

To cap off the event Grady Nicholson, a prior engineer from when the 746th TS was part of the 46th Test Group, opened up a time capsule with McNiel, which was buried in 1963.

“Back in the day we installed this, I was putting it all together and something happened, I don’t know what it was. I got really distracted and I think I put my lunch in here,” Nicholson laughed. “Hopefully paperwork is in here! Here we are 56 years later, and were going to find out what I had for lunch that day!”

What they found in the capsule were six handwritten pages, which read about the need for the 260 inch centrifuge, its requirements and why it was built.

The 746th TS plans to take a copy of the same document they buried in 1963 and create another time capsule for the next individuals to open in 60 years.