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.

Col. Jay Zarra

VX-23 Commanding Officer

Col. Jay "BIZ" Zarra is originally from Mesa, AZ, 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, Col Zarra completed The Basic School in November 2001, and reported to NAS Pensacola, FL, for flight training.  Col 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, Col Zarra transferred to the VMFA-251 Thunderbolts at MCAS Beaufort, SC.  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. 

Col 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, Col 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.  Col 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 $2.0M budget.  Col 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 certification of precision weapons, and also single-engine flying qualities and 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 combat deployment.

In November 2013, Col Zarra was assigned as the VX-23 Operations Officer, responsible for coordinating the daily efforts of the squadron’s eight departments, nearly 1,800 government/military/contractor workforce and 45 aircraft.  In 2014, the 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 Officer-Aviation 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 fleet 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 involving 40 F-35 test aircraft. 

In November 2019, Col 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 led more than 400 U.S. and United Kingdom (UK) military, government, and industry personnel to complete over 400 ground test events and 500 unique test flights spanning over 1,000 mishap free flight hours.

He served as the VX-23 Chief Test Pilot from June 2022 through January 2024. He is currently serving as the VX-23 Commanding Officer.

Col 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. He is happily married to Ms. Krisha Yetter, of College Park, MD, and they have a son Connor (17), and twin daughters Leah and Paige (12).

Cmdr. Eric Zilberman

VX-23 Chief Test Pilot

A native of Belmont, CA, Commander Zilberman graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering, from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2006 with a Master of Science in Systems Technology, and from the University of Virginia in 2022 with a Master of Science in Business Analytics.  After receiving his wings in July 2008, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) where he completed flight training in the legendary F/A-18 A-D Hornet.

From 2009 to 2012 he flew with the Blue Blasters of Strike Fighter Squadron 34 (VFA-34) based out of Virginia Beach, VA where he served as the Assistant Operations and Readiness Officer, NATOPS Officer, Quality Assurance Officer, Senior Landing Signals Officer (LSO), Line Division Officer, and Schedules Officer. With VFA-34, he completed two combat deployments and flew 40 combat missions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN.

In 2012, the United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) selected CDR Zilberman for attendance with class 143. Following graduation in July, 2013, he served as an experimental test pilot and project officer at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) from 2013 to 2016 and was responsible for over 20 developmental test efforts.

He returned to Virginia Beach, VA and joined the Ragin’ Bulls of Strike Fighter Squadron 37 (VFA-37) from 2017 to 2018 where he completed his department head tour. He served as the Operations, Safety, and Admin Officer and his qualifications included NATOPS Instructor Pilot and Functional Check Flight (FCF) Pilot. With the Bulls, he completed a third combat deployment and flew 19 combat missions in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. CDR Zilberman was selected for Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO) and Acquisition Corps during this time.

In 2018, CDR Zilberman returned to Patuxent River where he was the class desk for PMA-213 between 2018 and 2020, a deputy program manager at PMA-201 from 2020 to 2022, and the Chief of Strategy and Innovation at the United States Naval Test Pilot School from 2022 to 2023. While at USNTPS, CDR Zilberman was selected for command. He is currently serving the world famous VX-23 Salty Dogs as the Chief Test Pilot.

Commander Zilberman has over 2,000 military and civilian flight hours in 28 different aircraft types.  His personal decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (three awards), Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), and Navy Achievement Medal. He was selected as the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic Pilot of the Year in 2012.

Cmdr. Christopher A. Polhemus

VX-23 Executive Officer

A native of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Commander Polhemus graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2010 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  After graduation he attended flight school in Corpus Christi, TX and Kingsville, TX and earned his “Wings of Gold” in August of 2012.

LCDR Polhemus completed initial training in the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at VFA-122 in NAS Lemoore, CA.  During his first operational tour with the “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 at NAS Lemoore, CA he served as Avionics and Armaments Division Officer, Schedules Officer, Assistant Operations Officer, NATOPS Officer, and Head Landing Signals Officer.  He deployed on board the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73) in 2015 flying in support of SOUTHERN SEAS DEPLOYMENT, UNITAS Atlantic and Pacific, and Blue Sky V. 

In September 2016 LCDR Polhemus was selected to attend the United States Naval Test Pilot School Class 152 in Patuxent River, MD.  Upon completion of Test Pilot School he reported to the “Dust Devils” of VX-31 at NAWS China Lake, CA where he was Project Officer for the APG-79 AESA Radar.

In November 2020 LCDR Polhemus joined the “Stingers” of VFA-113 at NAS Lemoore, CA as a Department Head.  He served as Administration Department Head, Safety Officer, Maintenance Officer, and Operations Officer.  In 2021 Polhemus deployed on board the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) in the Western Pacific area of responsibility.  In June 2023, he reported aboard VX-23 as the Executive Officer.

LCDR Polhemus has accumulated over 3,000 flight hours in the F/A-18 E/F, EA-18G, and various other aircraft.  His decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two), and various unit, service, and campaign awards.

Senior Chief Jeffrey Delzer

VX-23 Command Senior Chief

Command Senior Chief Delzer, a native of Elyria, Ohio, enlisted in the United States Navy in May 2002.  Following completion of basic training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL, he completed the Basic Enlisted Engineering Common Core School in Great Lakes, IL.

Senior Chief Delzer’s sea duty assignments include USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), and Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron TWO (MSRON-2).  During these sea tours he served on multiple Western Pacific, Mediterranean, and Arabian Gulf deployments.

Ashore, Senior Chief Delzer has served at Coastal Riverine Group TWO and served as an Individual Augmentee in Djibouti, Africa, at Camp Lemonier.

Senior Chief Delzer is a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy and CMC/COB course.  He is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Business from Regent University.

His decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation (4 awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (6 awards), and various unit and campaign awards.

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.

Col. Jay Zarra

VX-23 Commanding Officer

Col. Jay "BIZ" Zarra is originally from Mesa, AZ, 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, Col Zarra completed The Basic School in November 2001, and reported to NAS Pensacola, FL, for flight training.  Col 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, Col Zarra transferred to the VMFA-251 Thunderbolts at MCAS Beaufort, SC.  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. 

Col 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, Col 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.  Col 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 $2.0M budget.  Col 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 certification of precision weapons, and also single-engine flying qualities and 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 combat deployment.

In November 2013, Col Zarra was assigned as the VX-23 Operations Officer, responsible for coordinating the daily efforts of the squadron’s eight departments, nearly 1,800 government/military/contractor workforce and 45 aircraft.  In 2014, the 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 Officer-Aviation 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 fleet 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 involving 40 F-35 test aircraft. 

In November 2019, Col 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 led more than 400 U.S. and United Kingdom (UK) military, government, and industry personnel to complete over 400 ground test events and 500 unique test flights spanning over 1,000 mishap free flight hours.

He served as the VX-23 Chief Test Pilot from June 2022 through January 2024. He is currently serving as the VX-23 Commanding Officer.

Col 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. He is happily married to Ms. Krisha Yetter, of College Park, MD, and they have a son Connor (17), and twin daughters Leah and Paige (12).

Cmdr. Eric Zilberman

VX-23 Chief Test Pilot

A native of Belmont, CA, Commander Zilberman graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering, from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2006 with a Master of Science in Systems Technology, and from the University of Virginia in 2022 with a Master of Science in Business Analytics.  After receiving his wings in July 2008, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) where he completed flight training in the legendary F/A-18 A-D Hornet.

From 2009 to 2012 he flew with the Blue Blasters of Strike Fighter Squadron 34 (VFA-34) based out of Virginia Beach, VA where he served as the Assistant Operations and Readiness Officer, NATOPS Officer, Quality Assurance Officer, Senior Landing Signals Officer (LSO), Line Division Officer, and Schedules Officer. With VFA-34, he completed two combat deployments and flew 40 combat missions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN.

In 2012, the United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) selected CDR Zilberman for attendance with class 143. Following graduation in July, 2013, he served as an experimental test pilot and project officer at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) from 2013 to 2016 and was responsible for over 20 developmental test efforts.

He returned to Virginia Beach, VA and joined the Ragin’ Bulls of Strike Fighter Squadron 37 (VFA-37) from 2017 to 2018 where he completed his department head tour. He served as the Operations, Safety, and Admin Officer and his qualifications included NATOPS Instructor Pilot and Functional Check Flight (FCF) Pilot. With the Bulls, he completed a third combat deployment and flew 19 combat missions in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. CDR Zilberman was selected for Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO) and Acquisition Corps during this time.

In 2018, CDR Zilberman returned to Patuxent River where he was the class desk for PMA-213 between 2018 and 2020, a deputy program manager at PMA-201 from 2020 to 2022, and the Chief of Strategy and Innovation at the United States Naval Test Pilot School from 2022 to 2023. While at USNTPS, CDR Zilberman was selected for command. He is currently serving the world famous VX-23 Salty Dogs as the Chief Test Pilot.

Commander Zilberman has over 2,000 military and civilian flight hours in 28 different aircraft types.  His personal decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (three awards), Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), and Navy Achievement Medal. He was selected as the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic Pilot of the Year in 2012.

Cmdr. Christopher A. Polhemus

VX-23 Executive Officer

A native of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Commander Polhemus graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2010 where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  After graduation he attended flight school in Corpus Christi, TX and Kingsville, TX and earned his “Wings of Gold” in August of 2012.

LCDR Polhemus completed initial training in the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at VFA-122 in NAS Lemoore, CA.  During his first operational tour with the “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 at NAS Lemoore, CA he served as Avionics and Armaments Division Officer, Schedules Officer, Assistant Operations Officer, NATOPS Officer, and Head Landing Signals Officer.  He deployed on board the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73) in 2015 flying in support of SOUTHERN SEAS DEPLOYMENT, UNITAS Atlantic and Pacific, and Blue Sky V. 

In September 2016 LCDR Polhemus was selected to attend the United States Naval Test Pilot School Class 152 in Patuxent River, MD.  Upon completion of Test Pilot School he reported to the “Dust Devils” of VX-31 at NAWS China Lake, CA where he was Project Officer for the APG-79 AESA Radar.

In November 2020 LCDR Polhemus joined the “Stingers” of VFA-113 at NAS Lemoore, CA as a Department Head.  He served as Administration Department Head, Safety Officer, Maintenance Officer, and Operations Officer.  In 2021 Polhemus deployed on board the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) in the Western Pacific area of responsibility.  In June 2023, he reported aboard VX-23 as the Executive Officer.

LCDR Polhemus has accumulated over 3,000 flight hours in the F/A-18 E/F, EA-18G, and various other aircraft.  His decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two), and various unit, service, and campaign awards.

Senior Chief Jeffrey Delzer

VX-23 Command Senior Chief

Command Senior Chief Delzer, a native of Elyria, Ohio, enlisted in the United States Navy in May 2002.  Following completion of basic training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL, he completed the Basic Enlisted Engineering Common Core School in Great Lakes, IL.

Senior Chief Delzer’s sea duty assignments include USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), and Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron TWO (MSRON-2).  During these sea tours he served on multiple Western Pacific, Mediterranean, and Arabian Gulf deployments.

Ashore, Senior Chief Delzer has served at Coastal Riverine Group TWO and served as an Individual Augmentee in Djibouti, Africa, at Camp Lemonier.

Senior Chief Delzer is a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy and CMC/COB course.  He is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Business from Regent University.

His decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation (4 awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (6 awards), and various unit and campaign awards.

VX-23 Points of Contact

VX-23 Duty Office: 301-342-4137