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 Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, and T-45A/C Goshawk aircraft, and the on-going contractor demonstration efforts with F-35B/C Lighting II aircraft. VX-23 is also supported by hundreds of flight test engineers and technicians provided by the Integrated Systems, Evaluation, Experimentation and Test Department and various contractors.
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.
Lt. Col. Mark Amspacher
VX-23 Commanding Officer
Lieutenant Colonel Mark R. Amspacher, a native of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania was commissioned a 2ndLt upon graduation from the United States Naval Academy in May 1999, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering.
1stLt Amspacher was designated a naval aviator on 9 August 2002 and reported to NAS Whidbey Island for EA-6B Prowler Pilot training.
Capt Amspacher reported to MCAS Cherry point, NC in February 2004 and was assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 (VMAQ-2). During his four and a half year tour with VMAQ-2, he served in the Logistics and Operations Departments. He deployed to Iraq on three separate occasions and earned multiple designations to include Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI), Night Systems Instructor (NSI), and Landing Signals Officer (LSO) (Field Qualification).
In August 2008, Capt Amspacher reported to NAS Whidbey Island as a Fleet Replacement Squadron Instructor. During his tour at VAQ-129, he served as a Tactics instructor, Marine Liaison Officer and Schedules Officer.
Major Amspacher reported to NAS Patuxent River, MD in August 2009 and was assigned to the United States Naval Test Pilot School as a member of Class 138. In December 2010, Major Amspacher graduated Test Pilot School with the Sydney Sherby Award for Leadership excellence.
Major Amspacher reported to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron TWO THREE (VX-23) Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Department where he served as project officer flying the EA-6B Prowler, EA-18G Growler, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. In April 2013, Major Amspacher assumed the duties as the VX-23 Operations Officer where he coordinated and led the efforts of the squadron’s eight departments to develop a consolidated operations plan for 56 aircrew and 48 aircraft to include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and the X-47 Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D). In November of 2013, Major Amspacher was selected to the 8059 Acquisitions Management Professional career field.
Following his tour at VX-23, Major Amspacher assumed the duties as the EA-6B Deputy Program Manager for PMA-234 in Patuxent River, MD on 31 January 2014. Major Amspacher lead major EA-6B program upgrades and sustainment efforts for the final Navy EA-6B Squadron transition to EA-18G in 2015 and continued sustainment initiatives for the Marine Corps for a 2019 sundown.
In June 2017, LtCol Amspacher assumed the duties as the Marine Aviation Detachment (MAD) Executive officer. He led a diverse team of Marines supporting and managing the Marine acquisition professionals of NAS Patuxent River until he reported to VX-23 on 22 March 2018 as the Chief Test Pilot. LtCol Amspacher assumed command of VX-23 on 11 October 2019.
LtCol Amspacher has flown over 25 different type aircraft and has amassed greater than 2400 total flight hours. In the EA-6B, LtCol Amspacher has accumulated over 1700 hours, in which over 1000 of those hours are combat.
LtCol Amspacher holds a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level III certification in Program Management and Test and Evaluation. He earned a Master of Science in Engineering Science (Aerospace Engineering) from the Naval Postgraduate School. His personal decorations and additional qualifications include, Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medals (15), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals (3), Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and US Army Jump School certification.
Capt. Elizabeth Somerville
VX-23 Chief Test Pilot
Captain Elizabeth Somerville is a native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and receiving her commission through the NROTC program. Following flight training in Pensacola, Florida, CAPT Somerville earned her Wings of Gold as a Naval Flight Officer in October of 2000 and reported to VAQ-129 for fleet replacement training in the EA-6B Prowler.
Upon completion of the FRS in November of 2001, CAPT Somerville reported to the Shadowhawks of VAQ-141 where she completed a Mediterranean deployment onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71.) During this tour, she participated extensively in combat operations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Following the 2003 deployment, CAPT Somerville earned her Prowler Tactics Instructor (PTI) qualification and acted in multiple squadron roles, culminating in Training Officer and Safety Officer.
After her tour with VAQ-141, CAPT Somerville was accepted into the US Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) Cooperative Program and reported to the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in May of 2004 and then graduated as a member of USNTPS Class 130 with a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering as part of the TPS Co-Op program.
After Test Pilot School graduation, CAPT Somerville joined the Dust Devils of VX-31 in China Lake, CA. While at VX-31, her flight test roles consisted of the test and evaluation of F/A-18D, F/A-18F and EA-18G weapons and aircraft software. She also served as the EA-18G and HARM Project Officer, responsible for the initial flight test of the EA-18G Growler.
In July 2009, CAPT Somerville reported to VAQ-141 once again as a Department Head, joining them right as the squadron completed a transition from the EA-6B to the EA-18G. During this tour, she served as Maintenance Officer for the first CVN work-up cycle with the EA-18G and subsequently took over as Operations Officer for the upcoming maiden aircraft carrier deployment of both the EA-18G and the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Following her Department Head tour, in April of 2012, CAPT Somerville reported to Airborne Electronic Attack Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) as the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) Integration IPT Lead. She was responsible for the integration of the NGJ tactical jamming system on the EA-18G. During this tour she transitioned to Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO.)
CAPT Somerville was selected for Aviation Command and was slated to the “Dust Devils” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE ONE (VX-31). She assumed the duties of Chief Test Pilot in January 2016 and Commanding Officer in July 2017. As the CO of VX-31, she led a team responsible for the developmental flight test for aircraft software development and weapons testing for the F/A-18 A-F, EA-18G, AV-8B. Additionally, the command was responsible for conducting Search and Rescue (SAR) with the MH-60S for the southern California and high desert region.
In October of 2019, CAPT Somerville assumed the duties of Chief Test Pilot at the VX-23 Salty Dogs.
CAPT Somerville’s personal decorations include the Air Medal (2 Strike/Flight Award and One Individual Award with Combat “V”,) Meritorious Service Medal (two awards,) Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards,) Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two awards) and various campaign medals and unit citations. She has accumulated over 2000 hours, primarily in the EA-6B, F/A-18F and EA-18G.
Cmdr. Christopher Sutherland
VX-23 Executive Officer
Cmdr. Christopher Sutherland is a native of Bowie, Maryland. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) was commissioned an ensign upon his graduation in May 2000.
Sutherland reported for aviation indoctrination at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida in August 2000. He completed primary, intermediate and advanced flight training there, flying the T-34C Mentor, T-39 Sabreliner and T-2C Buckeye and earned his Naval Flight Officer wings in October 2001.
Sutherland then reported to Sea Control Squadron (VS) 41, the "Shamrocks," in San Diego, California, for training in the S-3B Viking. In July 2002, he reported to VS-33, the "World Famous Screwbirds.” While assigned to VS-33, he completed two Western Pacific deployments with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) serving as Legal, Schedules, Personnel, Avionics/Armament Division officer and assistant maintenance officer.
In October 2005, Sutherland reported to the USNA for staff duty and was assigned to the Professional Programs department and was later selected to fill the position of the 19th Company officer.
Sutherland was selected for transition to the EA-6B Prowler and reported to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, the “Vikings,” in Whidbey Island, Washington, completing the course in July 2008. He was then assigned to VAQ-135 the “World Famous Black Ravens,” where he served as safety and quality assurance officer. During this tour, Sutherland completed a seven-month Individual Augmentation to Baghdad, Iraq as the 1- 18th Combined Arms Battalion and 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Heavy Brigade Combat Team electronic warfare officer and as a Joint CREW Composite Squadron (JCCS) 1 instructor in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, he completed a deployment with CVW-11 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom onboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68).
In September 2010, Sutherland was selected for the Prowler Instructor Course at the Electronic Attack Weapons School. Upon competion, he reported to VAQ-129 as an instructor, serving as the tactics phase head and EA-6B training officer. Additionally, he augmented VAQ-140, the “Patriots” to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in support of Operation Unified Protector.
Selected as operational training department head, Sutherland returned to the Electronic Attack Weapons School where he served as the EA-6B operations officer and the surface-to-air missile subject matter expert, and once again augmented VAQ-140 with CVW-7 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom onboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower(CVN-69).
In July 2013, Sutherland reported to VAQ-131, the “Lancers,” performing his duties as administration and maintenance officer. While with the “Lancers” he transitioned to the EA-18G Growler. Following his tour at VAQ-131, Sutherland returned to VAQ-135 in October 2015, serving as the operations officer.
Upon completing his multiple department head tours in July 2016, Sutherland reported to Commander, Electronic Attack Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet for staff duty and was the assigned as the assistant expeditionary operations officer.
In June 2017, Sutherland reported as executive officer of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, the “Salty Dogs” at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
Cmdr. Sutherland has more than 2,300 flight hours in military aircraft and more than 400 carrier arrested landings. His decorations include Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and various personal and unit awards.
Master Chief Keith Griffin
VX-23 Command Master Chief
A native of Buffalo, New York, Command Senior Chief Keith Griffin enlisted in the Navy in May of 1996 and attended recruit training at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. After graduation, he was selected for the U.S. Navy Presidential Honor Guard in Washington, D.C. Upon completion of his honor guard tour, he chose to attend Hospital Corpsman “A” school.
Griffin’s sea duty assignments include Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 in Lemoore, California, flying with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 15 and Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 30 detachment 1; Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 14 and VRC-30 detachment 5 in Atsugi, Japan. He also deployed as an individual augmentee with HSC-21 with the historic 2515th Naval Air Ambulance Detachment in Kuwait.
His shore duty assignments include National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland, Naval Hospital Roosevelt Roads, flying with Fleet Composite Squadron (VC) 8, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, Washington, flying with the Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island search and rescue unit and Naval Aviation Schools Command, Pensacola, Florida, instructing at Aviation Rescue Swimmer School, Naval Aircrew Candidate School and Water Survival.
Griffin holds an Associate’s degree in counter-terror studies. He is a graduate of the Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat course (class 161), the U.S. Navy Senior Enlisted Academy (class 198, gold), the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy (class 200) and the executive medical department enlisted course. He is designated as an enlisted aviation warfare specialist, a naval aircrew warfare specialist, enlisted surface warfare specialist and as a master training specialist.
Griffin has accumulated over 1,300 hours in various rotary- and fixed-wing naval aircraft. He is a recipient of the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit and Red Cross Hero Award for lifesaving actions.
Griffin assumed his current duties as command senior chief of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, in August 2016.
VX-23 Points of Contact
VX-23 Duty Office: 301-342-4200
VX-23 Administrative Office: 301-757-8577 | 301-757-8589
VX-23 Command Career Counselor: 301-757-4333