Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 Fact Sheet

Check out fast facts on VX-23!

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) is NAVAIR's largest flight test organization. The squadron's mission is to support the RDT&E of fixed wing tactical aircraft by providing aircraft and pilot assets, maintenance services, safety oversight and facility support for these efforts. Primary areas of support include flying qualities and performance evaluations, shipboard suitability, propulsion system testing, tactical aircraft mission system testing, ordnance compatibility and ballistic efforts, reliability and maintainability assessments, flight fidelity simulation and flight control software development. The Squadron also provides Government Flight Representatives, test monitoring, chase aircraft support, and facilities for contractor demonstration, validation and development work involving tactical aircraft and associated systems.

The VX-23 workforce -- officers (Navy, Marine Corps and foreign nationals), enlisted (Navy and Marine Corps), civilians and contractors -- supports the aircraft maintenance, test planning and conduct, safety oversight and support of the squadron's F/A-18A-D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, T-45C Goshawk, and F-35B/C Lightning II aircraft.

The squadron conducts more than 3,000 flight operations annually, totaling approximately 4,400 flight hours, much of which involves high-risk flight test. VX-23 conducts operations, both shore based and shipboard, locally at NAS Patuxent River and operates and maintains the TC-7 catapult and MK-7 arresting gear test sites.

Cmdr. Daniel Kitts

VX-23 Commanding Officer

Originally from Silver Spring, MD, CDR Daniel “Tonto” Kitts received his commission from the United States Naval Academy in 2001, graduating with distinction and receiving a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

CDR Kitts was designated a Naval Aviator in September 2003. Following flight school, he received orders to the “Gladiators” of VFA-106 at NAS Oceana for F/A-18C Hornet training.

CDR Kitts’ first operational fleet assignment was as a member of the “Ragin’ Bulls” of VFA-37 located at NAS Oceana, VA. The squadron embarked to the Arabian Gulf aboard the USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75) in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.

In May 2007, CDR Kitts was selected to attend the United States Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, MD. Upon completion of Test Pilot School he completed a tour as a developmental test pilot at VX-23 in Patuxent River, MD. Upon the completion of his tour at VX-23 he reported to CVW-5 in Atsugi, Japan where he served as the Strike Operations Officer. As a member of the Forward Deployed Naval Force he deployed aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) in the Western Pacific.

In August 2012, CDR Kitts reported to the “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 at NAS Lemoore, CA. As a department head in VFA-86, CDR Kitts embarked on USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76) in the Pacific.

In December 2014, CDR Kitts received orders back to VX-23 where he served as a developmental test pilot and the carrier suitability lead for the F-35C test program, and in October 2017, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron ONE FOUR SEVEN (VFA-147) as Executive Officer. CDR Kitts completed his tour as Commanding Officer of VFA-147 in May 2020 having successfully transitioned the first Navy operational squadron from the F/A-18E to the F-35C and earning both the 2020 Battle ‘E’ and Safety ‘S’ awards.

CDR Kitts reported to the Chief of Naval Operations Staff, Air Warfare (N98) as the F-35C Requirements Officer in July 2020. He was selected for bonus command and reported to VX-23 in July 2021 as Chief Test Pilot. In June 2022, CDR Kitts assumed duties of Commanding Officer at VX-23

His personal awards include the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, Strike Flight Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (four awards), the Navy Achievement Medal (three awards) and various campaign and unit awards.

Lt. Col. Jay M. Zarra

VX-23 Chief Test Pilot

LtCol Jay “BIZ” Zarra is originally from Mesa, Arizona, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 2001, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Following commissioning into the Marine Corps, LtCol Zarra completed The Basic School in November 2001, and reported to NAS Pensacola, FL, for flight training.  LtCol Zarra was designated a Naval Aviator in November 2003, and reported to the VMFAT-101 Sharpshooters for initial training in the F/A-18C Hornet.

In January 2005, LtCol Zarra transferred to the VMFA-251 Thunderbolts at MCAS Beaufort, S.C.  He deployed twice with Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM. 

LtCol Zarra reported to Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, VA, graduating in May 2009.  He then joined Officer Candidates School (OCS) for two 6-week increments as a Staff Platoon Commander directly in charge of four senior drill instructors and 60 officer candidates.  In October 2009, LtCol Zarra became a flight instructor in the F/A-18 A-F with the VFA-106 Gladiators at NAS Oceana, VA, until being selected for U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 141 in February 2011.

Graduating in June 2012, he joined the VX-23 Salty Dogs as a Weapons System Integration (WSI) Test Pilot and Project Officer.  LtCol Zarra planned, executed and reported on developmental flight test and evaluation projects on the F/A-18 A-F and OV-10G+ Bronco.  He directed four developmental projects with a combined $1.9M budget.  LtCol Zarra was also the lead project officer and test pilot while managing a 30-person test team during the Combat Dragon II (CDII) Rapid Warfighter Response (RWR) Program involving integration and certification of precision weapons, and also limited scope flying qualities and single-engine performance testing of 2 modified OV-10G+ aircraft for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).  His team completed 18 critical flights firing 44 rockets in just 21 days, enabling an on-time deployment.

In November 2013, LtCol Zarra was assigned as the VX-23 Operations Officer, responsible for coordinating the daily efforts of the squadron’s 8 departments, nearly 1,800 government/military/contractor workforce and 45 aircraft.  In 2014, his Operations Department was responsible for the safe execution of over 2,500 sorties and 3,300 mishap-free flight hours of 11 different type/model aircraft.

In June 2015, he lateral transferred to the Acquisition Management Professional 8059 Military Occupational Specialty, and was assigned to PMA-257, the AV-8B Program Office.  As the Power and Propulsion Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead, he was responsible for cost, schedule, performance and readiness of the F-402 Rolls-Royce Pegasus Engine.

In August 2017, he assumed the role of Deputy Test Manager, Integrated Test Force Crystal City, VA, F-35 Joint Program Office Headquarters, responsible for the program management of multi-site F-35 Developmental and Operational Testing and the creation of the first post-SDD Block 4 Test and Evaluation Master Plan. In November 2019, LtCol Zarra reported to VMFAT-501 at MCAS Beaufort, SC, as part of the F-35B transition syllabus, before assuming duty as the Patuxent River F-35 ITF Government Flight Test Director from March 2020 – June 2022.  He currently serves as the VX-23 Chief Test Pilot.

LtCol Zarra holds an M.S. in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.  He is Level III DAWIA certified in Test and Evaluation and Program Management, a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps, and an Air War College Top Level School graduate.  His personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with numeral 2, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2nd award), and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Cmdr. Jared Loller

VX-23 Executive Officer

A native of Maryland, Commander Loller graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 2001 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems.  He was commissioned in May 2001 and designated as a Naval Aviator in July 2003. 

Following initial training in the E-2C Hawkeye, CDR Loller reported to the “Screwtops” of VAW-123 and deployed twice on board the USS Enterprise flying in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.  On his second deployment he was designated as a Wing Qualified Landing Signals Officer.  In 2008, CDR Loller transitioned to the Electronic Attack community and following training at VAQ-129, reported to the “Gray Wolves” of VAQ-142.  There he served in Al Asad, Iraq and on board the USS Nimitz supporting Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN. 

In March 2013 CDR Loller attended Aviation Safety Officer school and joined the “Wizards” of VAQ-133 as a Department Head.  In VAQ-133, he transitioned to the EA-18 Growler and served on board the USS Stennis as the squadron’s Operations and Maintenance Officer.  In 2015, he was selected for the Secretary of the Navy Tours with Industry Program and worked as a Senior Project Manager on a Process Improvement Team at Amazon.com.  While at Amazon, he traveled to Fullfilment Centers across the country and studied Lean Six Sigma methods for improving quality control.  In 2016, he attended Aviation Safety Manager School and reported to Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific as the Director of Safety.  During this time, he earned his Master of Business Administration from Ohio University while continuing to fly the EA-18G.  In 2017, CDR Loller attended the Naval War College in Newport, RI and earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies

In July 2018, CDR Loller moved his family back to the Pacific Northwest and began refresher training in the EA-18G with VAQ-129 to serve as the Executive Officer of the “Vikings”.  There he served for two and a half years training the fleet’s newest Aviators.  In February 2021, he reported aboard VX-23 as the Executive Officer.

CDR Loller has accumulated over 2,700 flight hours in the E-2C, EA-6B, EA-18G, and others.  His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three), Strike/Flight Air Medal (seven), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two), and various unit, service, and campaign awards.

Senior Chief Muhammad I. Habeebullah

VX-23 Command Senior Chief

 

VX-23 Points of Contact

VX-23 Duty Office: 301-342-4137

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) is NAVAIR's largest flight test organization. The squadron's mission is to support the RDT&E of fixed wing tactical aircraft by providing aircraft and pilot assets, maintenance services, safety oversight and facility support for these efforts. Primary areas of support include flying qualities and performance evaluations, shipboard suitability, propulsion system testing, tactical aircraft mission system testing, ordnance compatibility and ballistic efforts, reliability and maintainability assessments, flight fidelity simulation and flight control software development. The Squadron also provides Government Flight Representatives, test monitoring, chase aircraft support, and facilities for contractor demonstration, validation and development work involving tactical aircraft and associated systems.

The VX-23 workforce -- officers (Navy, Marine Corps and foreign nationals), enlisted (Navy and Marine Corps), civilians and contractors -- supports the aircraft maintenance, test planning and conduct, safety oversight and support of the squadron's F/A-18A-D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, T-45C Goshawk, and F-35B/C Lightning II aircraft.

The squadron conducts more than 3,000 flight operations annually, totaling approximately 4,400 flight hours, much of which involves high-risk flight test. VX-23 conducts operations, both shore based and shipboard, locally at NAS Patuxent River and operates and maintains the TC-7 catapult and MK-7 arresting gear test sites.

Cmdr. Daniel Kitts

VX-23 Commanding Officer

Originally from Silver Spring, MD, CDR Daniel “Tonto” Kitts received his commission from the United States Naval Academy in 2001, graduating with distinction and receiving a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

CDR Kitts was designated a Naval Aviator in September 2003. Following flight school, he received orders to the “Gladiators” of VFA-106 at NAS Oceana for F/A-18C Hornet training.

CDR Kitts’ first operational fleet assignment was as a member of the “Ragin’ Bulls” of VFA-37 located at NAS Oceana, VA. The squadron embarked to the Arabian Gulf aboard the USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75) in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.

In May 2007, CDR Kitts was selected to attend the United States Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, MD. Upon completion of Test Pilot School he completed a tour as a developmental test pilot at VX-23 in Patuxent River, MD. Upon the completion of his tour at VX-23 he reported to CVW-5 in Atsugi, Japan where he served as the Strike Operations Officer. As a member of the Forward Deployed Naval Force he deployed aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) in the Western Pacific.

In August 2012, CDR Kitts reported to the “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 at NAS Lemoore, CA. As a department head in VFA-86, CDR Kitts embarked on USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76) in the Pacific.

In December 2014, CDR Kitts received orders back to VX-23 where he served as a developmental test pilot and the carrier suitability lead for the F-35C test program, and in October 2017, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron ONE FOUR SEVEN (VFA-147) as Executive Officer. CDR Kitts completed his tour as Commanding Officer of VFA-147 in May 2020 having successfully transitioned the first Navy operational squadron from the F/A-18E to the F-35C and earning both the 2020 Battle ‘E’ and Safety ‘S’ awards.

CDR Kitts reported to the Chief of Naval Operations Staff, Air Warfare (N98) as the F-35C Requirements Officer in July 2020. He was selected for bonus command and reported to VX-23 in July 2021 as Chief Test Pilot. In June 2022, CDR Kitts assumed duties of Commanding Officer at VX-23

His personal awards include the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, Strike Flight Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (four awards), the Navy Achievement Medal (three awards) and various campaign and unit awards.

Lt. Col. Jay M. Zarra

VX-23 Chief Test Pilot

LtCol Jay “BIZ” Zarra is originally from Mesa, Arizona, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 2001, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Following commissioning into the Marine Corps, LtCol Zarra completed The Basic School in November 2001, and reported to NAS Pensacola, FL, for flight training.  LtCol Zarra was designated a Naval Aviator in November 2003, and reported to the VMFAT-101 Sharpshooters for initial training in the F/A-18C Hornet.

In January 2005, LtCol Zarra transferred to the VMFA-251 Thunderbolts at MCAS Beaufort, S.C.  He deployed twice with Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM. 

LtCol Zarra reported to Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, VA, graduating in May 2009.  He then joined Officer Candidates School (OCS) for two 6-week increments as a Staff Platoon Commander directly in charge of four senior drill instructors and 60 officer candidates.  In October 2009, LtCol Zarra became a flight instructor in the F/A-18 A-F with the VFA-106 Gladiators at NAS Oceana, VA, until being selected for U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 141 in February 2011.

Graduating in June 2012, he joined the VX-23 Salty Dogs as a Weapons System Integration (WSI) Test Pilot and Project Officer.  LtCol Zarra planned, executed and reported on developmental flight test and evaluation projects on the F/A-18 A-F and OV-10G+ Bronco.  He directed four developmental projects with a combined $1.9M budget.  LtCol Zarra was also the lead project officer and test pilot while managing a 30-person test team during the Combat Dragon II (CDII) Rapid Warfighter Response (RWR) Program involving integration and certification of precision weapons, and also limited scope flying qualities and single-engine performance testing of 2 modified OV-10G+ aircraft for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).  His team completed 18 critical flights firing 44 rockets in just 21 days, enabling an on-time deployment.

In November 2013, LtCol Zarra was assigned as the VX-23 Operations Officer, responsible for coordinating the daily efforts of the squadron’s 8 departments, nearly 1,800 government/military/contractor workforce and 45 aircraft.  In 2014, his Operations Department was responsible for the safe execution of over 2,500 sorties and 3,300 mishap-free flight hours of 11 different type/model aircraft.

In June 2015, he lateral transferred to the Acquisition Management Professional 8059 Military Occupational Specialty, and was assigned to PMA-257, the AV-8B Program Office.  As the Power and Propulsion Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead, he was responsible for cost, schedule, performance and readiness of the F-402 Rolls-Royce Pegasus Engine.

In August 2017, he assumed the role of Deputy Test Manager, Integrated Test Force Crystal City, VA, F-35 Joint Program Office Headquarters, responsible for the program management of multi-site F-35 Developmental and Operational Testing and the creation of the first post-SDD Block 4 Test and Evaluation Master Plan. In November 2019, LtCol Zarra reported to VMFAT-501 at MCAS Beaufort, SC, as part of the F-35B transition syllabus, before assuming duty as the Patuxent River F-35 ITF Government Flight Test Director from March 2020 – June 2022.  He currently serves as the VX-23 Chief Test Pilot.

LtCol Zarra holds an M.S. in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.  He is Level III DAWIA certified in Test and Evaluation and Program Management, a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps, and an Air War College Top Level School graduate.  His personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with numeral 2, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2nd award), and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Cmdr. Jared Loller

VX-23 Executive Officer

A native of Maryland, Commander Loller graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 2001 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems.  He was commissioned in May 2001 and designated as a Naval Aviator in July 2003. 

Following initial training in the E-2C Hawkeye, CDR Loller reported to the “Screwtops” of VAW-123 and deployed twice on board the USS Enterprise flying in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.  On his second deployment he was designated as a Wing Qualified Landing Signals Officer.  In 2008, CDR Loller transitioned to the Electronic Attack community and following training at VAQ-129, reported to the “Gray Wolves” of VAQ-142.  There he served in Al Asad, Iraq and on board the USS Nimitz supporting Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN. 

In March 2013 CDR Loller attended Aviation Safety Officer school and joined the “Wizards” of VAQ-133 as a Department Head.  In VAQ-133, he transitioned to the EA-18 Growler and served on board the USS Stennis as the squadron’s Operations and Maintenance Officer.  In 2015, he was selected for the Secretary of the Navy Tours with Industry Program and worked as a Senior Project Manager on a Process Improvement Team at Amazon.com.  While at Amazon, he traveled to Fullfilment Centers across the country and studied Lean Six Sigma methods for improving quality control.  In 2016, he attended Aviation Safety Manager School and reported to Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific as the Director of Safety.  During this time, he earned his Master of Business Administration from Ohio University while continuing to fly the EA-18G.  In 2017, CDR Loller attended the Naval War College in Newport, RI and earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies

In July 2018, CDR Loller moved his family back to the Pacific Northwest and began refresher training in the EA-18G with VAQ-129 to serve as the Executive Officer of the “Vikings”.  There he served for two and a half years training the fleet’s newest Aviators.  In February 2021, he reported aboard VX-23 as the Executive Officer.

CDR Loller has accumulated over 2,700 flight hours in the E-2C, EA-6B, EA-18G, and others.  His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three), Strike/Flight Air Medal (seven), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two), and various unit, service, and campaign awards.

Senior Chief Muhammad I. Habeebullah

VX-23 Command Senior Chief

 

VX-23 Points of Contact

VX-23 Duty Office: 301-342-4137