In mid-1957, General Curtis E. LeMay, the newly appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, ordered the transfer of the last test-bed KC-135 from Edwards AFB, CA to Andrews AFB, MD. Although the aircraft continued to have a test and evaluation mission, during the first few years at Andrews AFB it was used primarily to transport numerous distinguished civilian and military leaders. From 1957 to late 1958 this tanker (KC-135 s/n55-3126) was the only jet aircraft permanently assigned to Andrews.
Althought this particular aircraft was used for a dual purpose of VIP transportation and testing, "administrative aircraft" were common during the 1950's and 1960's. Tristam Coffin, author of "The Armed Society," estimates that the Air Force in 1960 had 719 administrative planes, and the Navy 117. Colonel Lester T. David was the original project officer at the Pentagon responsible for helping to form and maintain Project Speckled Trout.
According to one of the first crew members selected for the Speckled Trout project, the many VIPs who flew on the aircraft included President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara. Recalling the hectic schedule of Gen Thomas D. White, USAF Chief of Staff and General LeMay in the late 50's and 60's, "it was nothing for us to spend 8-10 days in Europe, come back to Andrews for a day, and fly to the Far East for six days."
Within six months of its formation, the unit was named Speckled Trout in honor of a program monitor who assisted in numerous phases of the project. According to Maj Gen Chris Divich, a former Speckled Trout Commander, a civilian employee of ARDC named Faye Trout was instrumental in all facets of the project and the maintenance personnel honored her by naming the unit, "Trout." The word Speckled was added by General LeMay because Ms. Trout apparently had "alot of freckles."
In November 1957, the Speckled Trout aircraft received national exposure breaking a world speed record as part of Operation LONG LEGS. General LeMay and crew established an official world record nonstop, non‑refueled flight of 6,322.85 miles from Westover AFB, MA to Buenos Aires, Argentina. On 13 Nov 1957, Gen LeMay flew 5,204 miles and established a world course speed record from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., averaging 471.451 mph in 11 hours, 3 minutes, 57.38 seconds. The KC-135 was only the second large body jet aircraft to land at National, a French 1 Caravelle was the first.
At first, most of the people selected to maintain and fly the aircraft were personnel from Strategic Air Command. As the unit matured, crews were individually selected due to the complexity and sophistication of the state-of-the-art equipment aboard the highly-modified C-135. Individuals were chosen to serve Project Speckled Trout based upon high standards of professionalism, military bearing and mission/job performance.
In late 1957, newspaper columnist Jack Anderson visited the unit. Because the aircraft had been the last test-bed of the C-135 fleet, it had undergone numerous modifications and its overall appearance was anything but glamorous. It had no passenger seats or comforts associated with a commercial aircraft. General LeMay, sensitive to appearances, refused to have any decorative work done on the tanker. During its first year of operation from Andrews AFB, Mr. Anderson got wind of the new unit and inquired about its funding and purposes. He was given a thorough briefing and toured the KC-135. After seeing its apparently poor condition, he dropped the probe on Speckled Trout. However, this situation changed when General LeMay retired as Air Force Chief of Staff on 31 January 1965 and General John P. McConnell succeeded him. He immediately had the aircraft repainted and upgraded, and th Boeing Aircraft Company donated 10 passenger seats.
Speckled Trout personnel and assets have been subordinate to numerous commands and organizations in its history. Originally, General LeMay placed it under the 1001st Operations Group at Andrews AFB, MD assigned to HQ United States Air Force. The original squadron occupied a single hangar and was composed of two pilots, one navigator and eleven maintainers (six maintenance crew chiefs, one supply, one hydraulic, one engine, one sheet metal and one radar technician). Andrews AFB and Speckled Trout both remained under the direct control of MAC until the base was transferred to Headquarters Command in 1961. Speckled Trout personnel reported to the Headquarters Command until the Command deactivated in 1976 and the unit was transferred to Air Force Systems Command, or AFSC (now Air Force Materiel Command), as Detachment 1 to the 4950th Test Wing. In 1985, at the direction of HQ USAF, operational control for the aircraft and assigned personnel was assumed by HQ AFSC. In 1992, the unit was relocated to Edwards AFB, CA. The 412th Flight Test Squadron was activated on 28 January 1994, where the unit curates the mission to this day.
Throughout its history, Speckled Trout saw a few changes in aircraft. In 1974, WC-135B, s/n61-2669, was acquired from the 55th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at McClellan AFB to replace 55-3126 and began communications test/transport service for Project Speckled Trout in 1975. This aircraft was capable of accommodating 16 passengers and featured a distinguished visitors compartment. There was no baggage section on the aircraft because a significant portion of the aircraft was devoted to avionics an test equipment. Speckled Minnow, a smaller transport, was incoporated into Project Speckled Trout at the direction of Gen George S. Brown, CSAF, in February 1974. The original Speckled Minnow was a T-39 s/n62-4478. This aircraft was retired on 24 October 1984 and delivered to the Air Force Museum. A Gates Lear Jet C-21A s/n84-0098, was leased in December 1984 and purchased in September 1986. Speckled Minnows mission was later deactivated and the Project continued with its sole test/transport asset.
In April 2000, General Michael E. Ryan (CSAF 1997-2001) selected KC-135E, s/n57-2589 to replace 62-2669. The aircraft entered service as "CASEY01" for Project Speckled Trout in March 2003 and was utilized as a VC-135E until it was replaced in 2007. KC-135R, s/n63-7980, began service as "TROUT99" in 2007 as a fully capable tanker, flight test asset and leadership transport.
Numerous research and development activities were completed onboard the Speckled Trout C-135, T-39 and C-21 aircraft. These projects and tests provided useful information to the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and various contractors. Test projects conducted by Project Speckled Trout include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Transport Advanced Avionics Cockpit Enhancement (TRAACE B)
· Digital SCAT
· Ground Collision Avoidance System
· International Transportation Information Tracking System (INTRANSIT)
· C41 and Communications Backbone
· VC-X Program
· Video Teleconferencing for AF Operations Center
· Autonomous Landing and Guidance System (ALGS—a DARPA project)
· ALGS and Voice Recognition
· Multi-Mode Receiver
· International Maritime Satellite (INMARSAT)
· Passive Millimeter Wave (PMMW) Camera
· Ku-Band Phased Array Antenna
· Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID)
· Differential Global Positioning System (HAVE APPROACH)
· Expeditionary Force Experiment 98
· Aviation Weather Information-NASA (AWIN)
· Global Air Traffic Operations/Mobility Command and Control System (GATO/MC2)
· ARC-171 Satellite Communication System
· KC-135 PACER CRAG Cockpit Upgrade
· Head-Up Guidance System 4000
· Synthetic Vision System
· T-38C Block 2 Avionics Upgrade Program
· Arc Fault Circuit Breaker (AFCB) Technology
· Wideband Global Satellite Communications (WGS)
· Senior Leader Command, Control, and Communications System - Airborne Communications Program (SCP)
· Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)
· VINSON/ANDVT Crypto Modernization (VACM)
· TCAS 7.1
· Airborne WiFi
· Airborne Information Management System (AIMS)
· KC-46 Receiver Qual (-135 airframe)
Commanders of the 412th Flight Test Squadron:
· Maj Dwight L. Kenyon, 1 Jan 94-28 Jan 94
· Maj Scott W. Marshall, 28 Jan 94-18 Apr 97
· Lt Col James M. Ratti, 18 Apr 97-11 Apr 00
· Lt Col Kent S. Lund, 11 Apr 00-3 Jul 02
· Lt Col Richard M. Stuckey, 3 Jul 02-28 Jun 04
· Lt Col Edward M. Topps, 28 Jun 04-7 Jul 06
· Lt Col Gregory L. Slover, 7 Jul 06-13 Aug 08
· Lt Col Jordan R. Kriss, 13 Aug 08-5 Mar 10
· Lt Col Mike Shepherd, 5 Mar 10-10 Aug 11
· Lt Col Matthew T. Fritz, 10 Aug 11-
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