The H.A.W.X. squadron, also known as the H.A.W.X. Program and H.A.W.X. Project, (High Altitude Warfare Xperimental Squadron) was a special elite squadron within the U.S. Air Force, led by Colonel David Crenshaw. Its cover was the 24th TES (Test and Evaluation Squadron).
THE X-SQUAD — A BRIEF HISTORY
The “High Altitude Warfare – Experimental Squadron” (or H.A.W.X) traces its origins to 1943. In the midst of the Second World War, the United States initiated a program to acquire, evaluate and reverse-engineer enemy aircraft. Headquartered near Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base), it operated in conjunction with the OSS and the British Royal Air Force and was dubbed Project FALCO (Foreign Aircraft and Logistics Capture Operations).
FALCO managed covert field operations teams in every major combat theater of the war. These teams were a maverick combination of engineers, linguists, enemy defectors – and of course, some of the Allies’ most skilled and unorthodox combat-hardened pilots. As the war progressed, these aviators were frequently called up on by Allied High Command to put their skills to the test, using captured aircraft to insert covert agents and commando teams behind enemy lines and flying some of the most secret combat missions of the entire war.
With the war drawing to a close, FALCO teams became involved in targeted efforts to obtain specific enemy technologies. Allied forces took custody of numerous Axis scientists, pilots and engineers, and captured a veritable treasure trove of advanced aircraft.
In 1950, amid well-publicized USAF speculation that the enemy aircraft of WWII having given up their secrets, FALCO was officially ‘shut down’ by the US Department of Defense.
Except of course, it wasn’t. With the realization that combat aviation was evolving into supersonic engagements at high altitudes with nuclear bombers and missile-armed interceptors, FALCO personnel, projects and facilities were simply re-organized into the ‘High Altitude Warfare’ (H.A.W.) group.
Positioned as an element of Tactical Air Command (later Air Combat Command), this secret group works under the guise of the 24th Test and Evaluation Squadron. In an effort to further hide the operational aspects of the unit, it was officially re-named High Altitude Warfare – Experimental Squadron, or H.A.W.-X (The "X" being the US military designation for 'Experimental'). With time, the abbreviation was shortened to just H.A.W.X
The squadron’s elite fighter pilots are recruited from the most experienced and skilled combat veterans of the USAF, USN and USMC flight squadrons. The most highly-trained combat pilots in the world, they gain experience on all upcoming aircraft and weapon systems during the testing phase, helping refine designs and becoming the first to use them in combat should the nation require it. Capable of piloting virtually any aircraft from any branch of the US Military, in addition to many foreign designs, they are the 'top breed' of military pilots on Earth.
Based out of Langley Air Force Base in Southern Virginia, and with specialized West Coast facilities at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, the H.A.W.X squadron is involved with three main tasks:
- Testing and evaluation of the latest, most experimental and secret US and Allied aircraft and weapon systems, including piloted and unpiloted (UAV) high-altitude systems.
- Combat or Recon missions based on national defense needs. H.A.W.X missions are generally considered 'black ops' and operational history is a closely guarded secret. The H.A.W.X squadron, thanks to their ability to pilot virtually any aircraft and access to the latest and most powerful aircraft and weapons, allow the US to have a clear 'edge' in air combat operations when needed.
- As needs dictate (less frequently than the tasks listed above) the H.A.W.X squadron is involved with the training of US and Allied pilots and the capture and evaluation of enemy or non-allied air-oriented technologies.
Most recently, with the changes in international dynamics due to the rise of the PMCs, the H.A.W.X squadron’s unique skills are more in demand than ever before.
The H.A.W.X. squadron was formed at some point prior to 2006 by the US Air Force and Captain David Crenshaw was transferred into it. In 2014, he and his wingman Casper and Talon were patrolling the US-Mexican border and protected a Ghost Recon team.
The squadron was soon shut down by the Air Force itself. After four months, Crenshaw was invited by Artemis Global Security, a worldwide private military corporation. Artemis formed a squadron known as Reaper Flight and retained Crenshaw's position as the squad leader after his first assignment with Artemis. They continued to fly with Artemis until 2021 until the US intervened in Artemis' operations in Brazil. Crenshaw and his wingmen defected back to the US military after Artemis assigned a contract with Las Trinidad. The Air Force reactivated the squadron and Crenshaw helped defuse the crisis. He later conducted a black operation to take out the remaining Artemis leadership.
At one point prior to October 2021, the reactivated H.A.W.X. team defended Mexican oil rigs from the last of the PMCs. Crenshaw shot down his friend Jerry Slaten, who had been invited back but declined.
Additionally, H.A.W.X. flight provided cover to a Ghost Recon team operating in Russia.
Crenshaw created the H.A.W.X. Program as an international response team which could go anywhere within 24-hours. After Crenshaw was deployed to the Middle East, Colonel Alexander Bowman was placed in charge and brought the response time down to 8-hours. The squadron also adopted the use of UAVs like the Skybug. They became involved in a conflict with Colonel Rainmaker and the PMC DDI. They kept it a black operation until Rainmaker unleashed his Firestorm satellite. They called in the US Marines and the Air Force, but conducted their own operation to take out Rainmaker.
In the near future, the squadron under the command of Colonel Avery was stationed at Prince Faisal Airbase, where they were decimated by an insurgent cruise missile attack. Major Alex Hunter and the remaining members then hunt down the insurgents and stop rogue General Vasily Morgunov.
The HAWX Program was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base and had its roots in post-World War II operations like Paperclip and Project FALCO. The High Altitude Warfare program was for highly classified technology. It was located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then Langley Field, before moving to Nellis. The program was officially known as the 24th Testing and Evaluation Squadron, which has three missions. These are testing prototypes, flying high-altitude recon/combat operations, and trains US and allied pilots.
The program was underfunded, but in the 21st century the program restarted and became known as High Altitude Warfare, Experimental. The program produced aircraft such as the Shakuru and the Raven, the latter one was held in a hangar which did not officially exist. Dr. Elisa Meyers had worked there for 18 months designing aircraft like the Shakuru. After Firehawk, LLC was granted control of the program from the US military, Troy Loensch and Aron Arnold were assigned as test pilots. After Loensch was caught spying on Raymond Harris, he staged an accident in the Shakuru and Loensch was presumed dead. Harris later took the Raven to drop a nuclear weapon on President Albert Fachearon, who refused to recognize the PMC's authority following the passage of the Executive Branch Management Bill. It was rammed by Loensch's F-16 and destroyed. Days later, Arnold was placed as the head of the program and recruited Jenna Munrough into it.
HAWX Program c. 2012
US operations, near future
- Alexander Bowman, "Dagger", Commander
- Cole Bowman, "Arrow"
- Tak Sakai, "Ringo" defected to DDI, KIA
- Kelsa Townsend, "Sonnet", head of UAV operations
Middle East operations, near future
- Avery, CO, (near future), KIA
- Unnamed XO, (near future), KIA
- Alex Hunter (near future)
- Simms (near future), KIA
- Rebecca Walters (near future), KIA
- A pilot with the callsign "Chester" appears in the trailer for Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., providing support for a Ghost Recon team.
- In the Nintendo Wii version of H.A.W.X. 2, players can use the Arena mode to fight against the squadron members.