COMOPTEVFOR traces its origin to the final months of World War II when the need arose for an effective means to combat Japanese Kamikaze attacks. On 2 July 1945, the Composite Task Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, was formed to develop tactics and evaluate equipment to counter the Kamikazes. This force was commanded by Vice Admiral W. A. Lee, USN, and consisted of miscellaneous types of combatant ships with supporting aircraft drone control groups. When World War II ended, the Composite Task Force was consolidated with other fleet units doing development work, and in December 1947 was redesignated the Operational Development Force (OPDEVFOR). In the early years, COMOPDEVFOR flew his flag onboard the USS ADIRONDACK (E-AGC-15). In 1949, the command moved ashore to headquarters at the Norfolk Naval Base.
During the ensuing years, changes were made to the mission and tasks to provide wider responsibilities in operational test and evaluation. For example, in 1952, the Tactical Development Group was formed and became part of OPDEVFOR. Changes were also made in the organizational structure to expand test and evaluation capabilities, as well as forming a subordinate command within the Pacific Fleet. Accordingly, in May 1959, the command was renamed Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR) to reflect more accurately its increased responsibilities.
From its inception until the early 1970s, OPTEVFOR was an operational command reporting to CINCLANTFLT. Its mission was primarily concerned with fleet introduction of new weapons systems, including operational test and evaluation and development of tactics. In 1971, however, OPTEVFOR was designated the Navy's sole independent agency for operational test and evaluation. This move was in response to Congressional and Secretary of Defense initiatives aimed at improving the defense material acquisition process. The command retained its former responsibilities and added the new ones of making early, independent assessments of operational suitability during the Research and Development (R&D) process. In keeping with these new responsibilities, which moved OPTEVFOR's participation ahead of the production decision, the Force Commander began reporting directly to the Chief of Naval Operations.
The Deputy COMOPTEVFOR, Pacific, was located in San Diego, CA and maintained liaison with CINCPACFLT, Pacific Fleet type, functional, and support commanders; and when directed, heads of Pacific shore activities engaged in development work, including contractors. He administered, coordinated, and supervised projects being prosecuted in the Pacific Fleet areas as directed by COMOPTEVFOR and prepared proposed project plans and reports. When requested by CINCPACFLT, he rendered assistance for Pacific Fleet projects. COMOPTEVFOR, Pacific was disestablished in June 1993.
In order to carry out its mission, OPTEVFOR must closely follow all R&D programs of the Navy material establishment and in Navy laboratories. CNO accordingly has authorized direct liaison between COMOPTEVFOR and the heads of developing agencies for all technical matters relating to Navy research, development, test and evaluation. The staff of COMOPTEVFOR is organized along flexible lines which give primary consideration to type of warfare and project administration. Evaluation of equipment and systems is carried out by personnel with experience in the type of equipment or warfare over which their divisions have cognizance.
Additionally, COMOPTEVFOR supports three detachments: COMOPTEVFOR DETACHMENT EDWARDS AFB, part of the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team, COMOPTEVFOR DETACHMENT DAHLGREN, VA, in support of AEGIS Combat Systems testing and COMOPTEVFOR DETACHMENT SAN DIEGO, which coordinates fleet scheduling of operational testing with PACFLT units.
COMOPTEVFOR also coordinates test and evaluation activities with the operational test agencies of the other services and with the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), who establishes operational test policy for DoD.