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17th Test Squadron executes one of a kind mission

The 17th Test Squadron is a space-focused operational test and evaluation unit that delivers validated warfighting capabilities and ensures an independent assessment of space systems' performance. The 17th TS is headquartered at Schriever Air Force Base and has detachments and operating locations spread throughout different bases. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Graphic)

The 17th Test Squadron is a space-focused operational test and evaluation unit that delivers validated warfighting capabilities and ensures an independent assessment of space systems' performance. The 17th TS is headquartered at Schriever Air Force Base and has detachments and operating locations spread throughout different bases. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Graphic)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 17th Test Squadron enhances warfighter lethality and survivability through operational testing and evaluation of space capabilities to ensure space superiority.

Though the 17th TS, headquartered here, has detachments and operating locations spread throughout different bases, its mission is unique.

“As far as space tests go, we’re one of only a few,” said Tech. Sgt. James Smith, 17th TS noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs. “Out of the entire 53rd Wing and Air Force Warfare Center, we’re the only space test organization.”

The 17th TS tests most of the equipment and systems associated with the space mission in the restricted area.

“After an assessment, we file a report that covers the good, the bad and the ugly,” Smith said. “We then send a report out to Space Force. After that, it’s up to Space Force leadership to determine whether they’d like to accept the equipment we just completed an assessment for or not.”

The 17th TS’ Operating Location-Charlie conducts testing on the base’s higher classification systems. Tech. Sgt. Tricia Benson, 17th TS OL-C flight chief and project manager, said the unit is focused on testing electronic warfare.

“Each detachment and operating location has slightly different missions,” Benson said. “Recent tests we’ve done have been on the Bounty Hunter and the Counter Communications System, which are both electronic warfare systems located at Peterson [Air Force Base].”

Benson said after completing testing, all of their operating locations and detachments follow the same processes for consistency in their reports. The squadron’s assessments ensure the capabilities the government requires for each system are met.

“Without us, we could get any system you could think of, in any quality,” Benson said. “We want our brothers and sisters to have the best they possibly can, and that’s our job: to tell them the facts and what does or does not work, and what capabilities are out there for a system.”

The squadron also plays a role in the development of systems that can take more than a decade to make. The companies who design the equipment take input from the operators and the developmental reports, and use the feedback to shape the system into its operationally accepted state.

“Ultimately, our goal is to test the system the most operationally relevant way we can and deliver a timely, accurate and unbiased assessment of some of the most complex and costly space systems,” she said.

Benson said the squadron has been working on a program called the Weapons System Evaluation Program COMBAT MACE. The exercises conducted will evaluate weapons systems and tactics effectiveness and survivability, and have a specific space focus. If Airmen have new ideas, they can now be tested in an exercise before going live to see if it’ll be effective down range for the warfighter.

“Space has been a part of a lot of past exercises, but always in the background,” she said. “And with the contested space environment, I think WSEP [COMBAT MACE] is important. We have to be smarter, we have to use our technology better. We have a ton of young, smart Airmen coming up with new ideas, so why not listen to them? Now we can test them and make ourselves better. I think it’s an awesome program and I can’t wait to see it developed.”

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