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A Short 4477th Unit History

As remembered by Gail Peck, Historian      The 4477th Test and Evaluation Flight (TEF) was created by Tactical Air Command (TAC) of the United States Air Force (USAF) to host the training program chartered by M/Gen Hoyt S “Sandy” Vandenberg. The program was called project CONSTANT PEG. CONSTANT was the “call sign” of M/Gen Vandenberg and PEG was the wife of Major Gaillard (Gail) Peck who initiated the program while working for M/Gen Vandenberg at the Pentagon.      The mission of CONSTANT PEG was to train USAF, US Navy and US Marine Corps combat fighter aircrews on the best ways to fight and win when encountering MiG built aircraft in aerial combat.      The 4477th TEF “stood up” at Nellis AFB, NV on 1 Apr 1977 under the command of Lt Col Glenn Frick, transitioned to the mission base at the Tonopah Test Range airfield under the command of Lt Col Gaillard Peck in Jul 1979 and terminated operations at Tonopah in Mar 1988 under the command of Lt Col Michael Scott. During these intervening years the unit was also commanded by Lt Cols Earl Henderson, Tom Gibbs, George Gennin, Phil White and Jack Manclark.      During the time of active MiG operations the 4477 TEF was changed to the 4477 Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES). Shortly after the termination of flight operations the squadron “stood down,” equipment was salvaged or redistributed to other users and all personnel were reassigned.      During the period of operations the 4477th TEF/TES flew over 15,000 MiG sorties and trained almost 6,000 Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircrews to fight the MiG-17, MiG-21 and MiG-23 and win.      Lt Col Glenn Frick hired SMSgt Bobby Ellis to be the Chief of Maintenance. Bobby’s task included hiring necessary personnel and supervising the management and restoration of the aircraft made available to the 4477th TEF.      Glenn Frick and his operations officer, then Maj Ron Iverson (Lt Gen ret), hired the pilots that were to fly the aircraft.      Some MiG flying was ongoing under the cover of test operations. The birth of CONSTANT PEG marked the end of the “test charade” and signaled the beginning of MiG operations in earnest that were wholly dedicated to training American airmen in how to engage and beat the MiG aircraft in close-in aerial combat (dog fighting).      Gail Peck took command from Glenn Frick on 1 Oct 1978 and embarked upon the task of supervising the completion of all aspects of “standing up” the 4477th TEF including the completion of the airfield, the restoration of the MiG aircraft and the initiation of flight operations. When operations began at Tonopah Test Range in July 1979 the manpower consisted of 29 officers and enlisted personnel including three pilots that were US Navy aviators. Throughout the entire period the 4477th was a Joint operation with USAF and US Navy and/or Marine Corps pilots assigned. Initially, one civilian secretary supported the operations at her work station at Nellis AFB, NV.      The initial equipage at Tonopah in Jul 1979 included eight aircraft: two MiG-17s, NATO Fresco C aircraft and six MiG-21 NATO Fishbed C/E aircraft. The only vehicle initially assigned was a Kenworth tractor truck capable of 18- wheel trailer operations.      Through the good work of Mr Matt Foley (RIP Jan 2013 at age 92), an AF intelligence officer, the force structure of RED EAGLE aircraft grew reaching a maximum of 27 flyable MiG airframes in 1985. All were not flyable at the same time as certain critical parts had to be moved from one flyable aircraft to make another aircraft flyable.      The fleet was augmented by five T-38s that were used for MiG “chase” when new pilots were flying the single seat MiGs for the first few times. None of the MiGs were two-seaters and there were no simulators!
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