846th TS brings the need for speed to Holloman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Paczkowski
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Need a reason to go 9,465 feet per second? Look no further than the Holloman High Speed Test Track. 
The 50,000 foot track is operated by the 846th Test Squadron. This squadron is responsible for all things test track related, such as building the sleds, running diagnostics, performing the tests and much more. 
They are able to accomplish these tasks with the help of various flights across the squadron, such as the program management flight, engineering flight, instrumentation flight and the operations flight. 
“At the end of the day we’re all trying to accomplish a common goal,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Aaron Runnells, 846th TS mechanical engineer. “It’s always great to get out there to the other flights and get an idea of what they are doing and how they operate.”
Each flight has different responsibilities. For example, the program management flight is the middle man between the squadron and its customers. The engineering flight plays a major role in testing and designing the sleds. 
The design of the sled is vital because every measurement of the sled is done to the ten thousandth of an inch. This is an essential part of the operation of the test track, as even something as a small deviation from the design can lead to costly errors. 
Testing of the sled can vary as well. There's hypersonic testing, egress testing, parachute drag testing, bunker bomb testing, impact testing and more. 
“Each year we will have different missions and those missions require different tasks to complete,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jared Rupp, 846th TS commander. “The hypersonic missions take a lot longer and need a lot more manpower than something like a penetrating bomb test.”
There are also major events that have taken place at the test track. One of these events was the breaking of the land speed record in 2003, when one of the sleds reached a speed of 9,465 feet per second.  
It was also where U.S. Air Force Col. John P. Stapp, a doctor for the U.S. Air Force at the time would study the effects that G’s would put on a human during deceleration. During that time he would break a land speed record himself by going on to hit 632 miles per hour while riding a sled. Stapp also sustained the most G’s during a single period when he hit 46.2 G’s while decelerating. 
“This track has a lot of history in the area, ” said Rupp. “I run into a lot of people in Alamogordo that will say that their mom, dad, grandparents or other family members have worked on the test track. This track is almost as old as the U.S. Air Force and it’s still pushing out the latest and greatest technology for it.”