EGLIN AFB — A new squadron has been added to the 53rd Wing, which is responsible for operational testing and evaluation of new equipment and systems proposed for use by the service's combat air forces.

The 87th Electronic Warfare Squadron was formally activated in a ceremony held Friday at Eglin Air Force Base. It will be part of the wing's existing 53rd Electronic Warfare Group.

News of the new squadron's activation comes just days after an announcement that the 53rd Fighter Wing's 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron will move to Utah's Hill Air Force Base. According to Eglin spokesman Andy Bourland, three-quarters of that squadron's work was already being done at Hill, but there was just a small detachment of the squadron based at the Utah installation.

Among the missions of the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron is the Combat Hammer exercise, held twice yearly at Eglin and twice yearly at Hill to evaluate air-to-ground weapons.

According to a Friday news release from the Air Force's Air Combat Command, the 87th Electronic Warfare Squadron "will provide electronic warfare evaluations, cyber assessments and technical expertise to enable multi-domain mission readiness for combat and mobility air forces."

More specifically, the squadron will be responsible for directing Combat Shield, the Air Force's electronic warfare assessment program, according to the news release.  Combat Shield assesses electronic warfare readiness by evaluating electronic warfare system performance, maintenance practices and units’ operational processes. The activation of the 87th will allow multiple Combat Shield teams to support assessments for all major commands worldwide to maximize the effectiveness of their evaluations while also achieving efficiencies in manpower utilization, according to the news release.

“The activation of the 87th EWS aligns with Air Force priorities to maintain air, space, and cyberspace superiority now and into the future," said Col. David Abba, commander of the 53rd Wing. "This squadron’s activation puts Combat Shield on par with other weapons system evaluation programs such as air-to-air weapons (Combat Archer) and air-to-ground weapons (Combat Hammer); each already has its own squadron.

Creation of a squadron specifically to test and evaluate new electronic warfare systems and equipment "recognizes that electronic warfare, and operations across the electromagnetic spectrum more broadly, are fundamental to achieving National Defense Strategy objectives,” Abba noted in the news release.

The 53rd Electronic Warfare Group, of which the new squadron will be a part, is one of four groups organized under the 53rd Wing. In addition to the electronic warfare group, the 53rd Wing comprises the 53rd Test Management Group, which provides technical expertise for testing, modification, acquisition and certification of all combat  aircrew training systems; the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, which manages the wing's flight activities at Eglin and a number of other Air Force bases around the country, and the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, which evaluates combat aircraft employing precision air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.