"Semper Paratus"  


Birth of the 9th

            The 9th Reconnaissance Wing, stationed at Beale Air Force Base in the California's Northern Sacramento Valley, became a part of the Air Force on 1 May 1949.  The wing, however, inherited the honors of the World War II 9th Bombardment Group, which the Army Air Corps organized as the 9th Observation Group in 1922.  The 9th Observation Group activated at Mitchel Field, N.Y. on 1 August 1922 as headquarters for the 1st and 5th Squadrons.  The 99th Squadron first joined the group on 9 November 1928.

            The 1st Aero Squadron (Provisional), the oldest squadron in the Air Force and known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, had activated on 5 March 1913.  Its mission was to help the Second Army Division guard the United States-Mexico border.  Three years later, in March 1916, the Mexican outlaw Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, and the United States Army rushed units to Columbus to protect the town.  The 1st Aero Squadron, commanded by Captain Benjamin D. Foulois, also moved to Columbus.  Historically, this was the first time air and ground units combined forces during an operation.

            On 15 March 1916, the Army ordered the 1st Aero Squadron, the only U.S. tactical air unit in the field, to support  General John J. Pershing's punitive expedition against Mexico.  The following day, 16 March, Captain T. F. Dodd, with Captain Foulois as observer, took off in a Curtiss R-2 for a flight across the border and into Mexican territory.  This was the first American military aerial reconnaissance mission in combat.  The following year the 99th Aero Squadron would join the 1st in supporting General Pershing in a more deadly combat arena.

            The 1st Aero Squadron arrived in France in October 1917 and the 99th followed two months later.  Both squadrons began combat training in French Salmson and Breguet aircraft.  Early in 1918 the 1st Aero Squadron participated in the Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne combat operations.  The 1st also saw action in the defense sectors in Lorraine and Champagne.  The four black crosses on the 9th Reconnaissance Wing's emblem commemorate these air battles.  The 99th Aero Squadron, meanwhile, was active in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne operations and the defense of the Lorraine sector.  Between 12 and 15 September 1918, both the 1st and 99th Aero Squadrons joined the great air armada of 1,481 airplanes in the massive air offensive ordered by General Pershing in the St. Mihiel sector.

            In 1921, the 1st Aero Squadron's MB-2 Bombers, led by Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell, proved warships vulnerability to aerial attack in a series of bombing tests.  At the completion of three successful tests, a joint Army-Navy board concluded that it was imperative to the national defense to develop both Army and Navy aviation as quickly as possible.  On 1 August 1922, the 1st and 5th Observation Squadrons became the 9th Observation Group at Mitchel Field, New York.

            In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the 9th Group performed normal observation, bombing, and training flights and participated in air shows.  Meanwhile, the group's aircraft evolved from the bamboo and bailing-wire models of World War I to the DH-4 Liberty, B-7, B-10, and B-18 bombers used at the beginning of World War II.  As the war threatened American interests in 1940, the Army transferred the 9th Bombardment Group to the Panama Canal Zone.  When the United States joined the war, the group's bombers were flying anti-submarine patrols from Trinidad in the British West Indies.  The anti-submarine mission continued until the autumn of 1942 when the group moved to Orlando, Florida.

            At Orlando, the 9th Group trained bombardment group cadres, developed new combat tactics, and tested new flying equipment.  In February 1944, the 9th Bombardment Group was suddenly relieved from assignment to the Army Air Force Tactical Center.  Mysteriously, the group received orders to leave its B-17s behind as it transferred first to Dalhart, Texas and then to McCook Field, Nebraska.

            At McCook Field the 9th found the reason for leaving their Flying Fortresses: the new Boeing B-29 Super Fortresses.  The 9th completed training in November 1944 and began its move to the Pacific Theater.  By 20 January 1945 the group had settled at its new home at North Field, Tinian Island, in the Marianas.

            Just one week later, on 27, 29, and 31 January 1945, the 9th Bombardment Group flew bombing raids against Japanese installations in the northern Marianas.  The unit attacked its first defended target on 9 February, the seaplane base on Moen, an island in the Truks.  Three days later, in preparation for the upcoming amphibious landing, the group struck heavy gun emplacements on Iwo Jima.

            On 14 February, the group's B-29s, each carrying an experienced naval officer as observer, searched for Japanese picket ships as the Navy planned a carrier attack against Japan's main islands.  Five days later the 9th Group's Super Fortresses returned to the Japanese homeland.  With B-29s from the 504th Group, the 9th inflicted heavy damage on a well-defended aircraft factory in Tokyo.

            Day-by-day, the strength of the air force in the Pacific Theater increased as more units and bombers arrived.  As American air power grew, so did the damage to the Japanese war-machine as incessant attacks destroyed factories and cities.  Unlike the devastating "block busters" needed to destroy German industry, incendiary bombs proved most effective against the wooden buildings that housed Japan's war industry.

            On 25 February 1945, 32 bombers from the 9th Group joined an all-out Allied effort against Tokyo's port and industrial areas.  The group kept up the relentless attack on Japanese aircraft factories, chemical plants, naval bases, and airdromes throughout the final months of the war.  Despite stiff opposition--heavy and light anti-aircraft fire, search lights, flak boats, and fighter planes--9th Group B-29s repeatedly struck Japan in an attempt to end the war.  The raids destroyed large areas of Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Tokyo, and other cities.

            Conditions were so difficult on two of the missions, the group earned Distinguished Unit Citations.  First, on 15-16 April 1945, the group attacked the industrial area of Kawasaki, Japan.  Tokyo and Yokohama industries depended on Kawasaki's components.  The maintenance people readied 33 B‑29s for the mission.  Strategically located the target was heavily defended, both on the flanks and in the immediate target area.  Therefore, the approach, bomb run, and breakaway were extremely hazardous.  Adding to the danger, the 9th Group's Super Fortresses flew the 1,500 miles between Tinian and Japan low-level, over water, at night.  Severe turbulence along the way affected the mechanical navigation equipment, but the bombers stayed on course.

            Attacking according to the bombing plan, the 9th Group made the last run over the target.  By then the Japanese defenses were fully alerted and knew the approximate bombing altitude and direction of the attack.  Exceptionally close coordination between enemy searchlights and anti-aircraft guns subjected the bombers to powerful concentrations of anti-aircraft fire on their way to the target, over the target, and after their breakaway.  Intense, accurate fire from flak boats on the flight to and from the target added to the fierce opposition.  The group also encountered approximately 56 Japanese fighters.  The attack destroyed the industrial area of Kawasaki, but the 9th Bombardment Group paid a heavy price.  Four of the group's 33 B-29s crashed during the mission and six others suffered severe damage.

            The 9th Bombardment Group won a second Distinguished Unit Citation the following month in another air operation against Japan.  By laying mines in the seas surrounding Japan, the Allies hoped to isolate Japan and deprive her of resources from conquered territories in China, Manchuria, and Korea.  Denial of these materials would drastically reduce Japan's productive power and ability to continue the war.  Also, the mining operations would immobilize the Japanese sea transport service.  Effectively mining the Shimonoseki Straits and the waters around the harbors of northwest Honshu and Kyushu would block sea traffic on the Inland Seas and isolate the important northern ports. 

            Between 13 and 28 May 1945, the 9th Bombardment Group flew eight missions with 209 sorties.  Flying at 5,500 feet, on alternating nights, the crews faced unpredictable and often adverse weather.  Determined anti-aircraft batteries and fighter crews protected the target areas.  Accurate mine laying under such conditions forced the group's navigators to devise new techniques.  Despite inclement weather, heavy flak, and suicide attacks by fighter pilots, the 9th's bomber crews systematically covered the vital sea-lanes.

            On 18 and 19 May, 18 B-29s successfully mined the Inland Sea approaches to the Shimonoseki Straits.  Again on 20 and 21 May, 18 B-29s mined the outer approaches to the straits, while four aircraft re-mined the inner approaches.  On the night of 22-23 May, 30 9th Group bombers returned to mine the main channel of the Shimonoseki Straits. The mine-laying operations crippled Japanese efforts to move shipments of food, raw materials, manufactured war supplies, troop elements, and combat equipment to and from their homeland.

            Between January and August 1945, the 9th Group's B-29s repeatedly attacked Japan.  Besides the bombing and mine-laying operations, their missions included sea search, weather reconnaissance, radarscope, counter-radar, wind runs, and photoreconnaissance.  When Japan surrendered on 14 August 1945 the bombing missions ended, but the group remained active transporting personnel and supplies around the vast Pacific Theater.  The 9th also flew several "display-of-force" missions over the next three years.  The 9th Bombardment Group eventually moved to Harmon Field, Guam, where it inactivated on 20 October 1948.


The U.S. Air Force Emerges


            Following World War II, the National Security Act of 1947 established the U.S. Air Force as a sister service of the Army and Navy.  The concurrent establishment of major commands within the Air Force brought wholesale realignments, including creating wings with subordinate groups and squadrons.  The Air Force established the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on 25 April 1949, and activated it on 1 May.  The Air Force also activated the redesignated 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Group and the 1st, 5th, and 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons after only seven months of inactivation.  The wing and its subordinate units were stationed at Fairfield-Suisun (later Travis) Air Force Base, California.

            The 9th Wing's mission was to obtain complete data through visual, photographic, electronic, and weather reconnaissance operations.  To carry out this mission, the 1st, 5th, and 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons' crewmembers flew RB-29s and a few RB-36s.  The 9th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron also joined the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on 1 May 1949.  The reconnaissance mission continued for only eleven months.

            On 1 April 1950, the Air Force redesignated the 9SRW as the 9th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, with similar redesignations of the 9th Group and the 1st, 5th, and 99th Squadrons.  Seven months later, on 2 November, the wing and subordinate units were again redesignated--to Bombardment, Medium.  In early February 1951, the Air Force realigned its flying operation and placed the flying squadrons directly under control of the wings.  The Air Force, therefore, placed the 9th Bombardment Group in Records Unit status, then inactivated the group on 16 June 1952.  On 4 January 1955, the Air Force bestowed upon the 9th Wing the honors of the inactive 9th Group--the operational headquarters unit before and during World War II.

            The 9th Bombardment Wing, Medium remained at Fairfield-Suisun AFB flying B-29s until 1 May 1953.  On 1 May, the Strategic Air Command assumed jurisdiction of Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, from the Military Air Transport Service and transferred the 9th Wing to the base.  Although some personnel began arriving at Mountain Home early in April, the Wing and its B-29s moved in May.  Simultaneously, the 2nd Aerial Refueling Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, became the 9th Air Refueling Squadron and transferred to the 9th Bombardment Wing at Mountain Home AFB.

            With the arrival of the 9th Wing at Mountain Home AFB, the base planned a vast construction program not only to accommodate the wing's personnel and offices, but also in anticipation of the acquisition of B-47s to replace the B‑29s.  On 15 September 1954, Colonel William C. Kingsbury, commander of the 9th Wing, landed at Mountain Home in the wing's first B-47 "Stratojet."  The remainder of the planes arrived over the next few months.  By June 1955, the 9th Wing was ready for a mobility test.  Early that month, bombers and crews spanned the continent and the Atlantic Ocean for a 60-day temporary duty assignment to England to test the wing's mobility training concept.

            In November 1955, the 9th Bombardment Wing displayed the Strategic Air Command's deterrent capability to strike anywhere in the world at anytime.  The B-47s flew from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho to New Zealand, a distance of 8,300 miles, nonstop with the aid of aerial refueling.  This was the longest point-to-point flight for any Strategic Air Command aircraft or unit up to that time.

            The 9th Bombardment Wing and its contingent of B-47s were an integral part of America's Cold War against communism.  From shortly after World War II to the early 1990s, the Strategic Air Command maintained its forces in a constant state of alert.  The 9th Wing trained and practiced incessantly to achieve and maintain the high state of readiness needed to fulfill its demanding and vital mission.

            In the decade after World War II, the development of faster aircraft and missiles steadily reduced reaction time.  With the arrival of the missile age, the Strategic Air Command had to be ready to launch its armada of nuclear bombers within 15 minutes for a retaliatory strike.  Meeting this challenge required radical changes from the organizational structure that won World War II.  After almost two years of planning, SAC developed a new organization.  Nicknamed FRESH APPROACH and designed to ensure a 15-minute response time, the new organization required extensive testing for practicality, mobility, and economy before command leaders were willing to discard the proven structure.  On 1 July 1957, the 9th Bombardment Wing, under the command of Colonel Robert V. DeShazo, was one of three SAC units to begin "service-testing" the new deputy commander system of management.

            From July through December 1957, the 9th Wing implemented FRESH APPROACH and worked out the "kinks" of the new organization.  The test came during a large SAC mobility and overseas deployment exercise.  The 9th Bombardment Wing was the only participating unit with the deputy-commander organizational structure.  Between October 1957 and January 1958, elements of the 9th Bombardment Wing and 9th Air Refueling Squadron scattered from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska to Andersen AFB, Guam.  Although some problems occurred during the overseas mobility test, the 9th Wing Commander firmly supported the new concept.  When the wing redeployed to Mountain Home AFB in mid-January 1958, it remained in the FRESH APPROACH organizational structure.

            On 1 October 1958, the Air Force officially adopted the deputy-commander concept and the 9th Bombardment Wing became the first unit to officially convert to the new organizational structure.  The change made it possible for the Air Force to launch an immediate retaliatory strike in response to nuclear attack on the United States.  Massive retaliation became a cornerstone of national policy and an effective deterrent to perceived threats.  For its meritorious service in testing and refining the reorganization, the 9th Bombardment Wing received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

            To reflect its expanding role as a bomber-missile unit, the 9th Bombardment Wing became the 9th Strategic Aerospace Wing on 1 April 1962.  On 13 April the wing received its first Titan I missile.  The Wing continued to fulfill its nuclear deterrence role until 1966.  On 8 November 1965, SAC and TAC completed a transfer agreement assigning Mountain Home to TAC effective 1 January 1966.  The 9th Air Refueling Squadron, inactivated on 15 December 1965.  On 1 January 1966 the 9th Wing became a tenant unit and began final phase‑out at Mountain Home AFB.  The last B-47E departed on 10 February and the personnel followed soon after.  But the 9th was not destined to disappear.


Worldwide Strategic Reconnaissance


            As the 9th Bombardment Wing phased out in early 1966, plans were already in the works to keep the 9th's lineage and traditions alive.  In July 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the development of the SR-71.  This new and advanced aircraft would give SAC a reconnaissance capability that far exceeded any then available in terms of speed, altitude, and increased area coverage.  The SR-71 would fly at more than three times the speed of sound and operate at altitudes above 80,000 feet.  Two Pratt and Whitney J-58 turbojet engines, the first engines to be flight qualified at Mach 3 by the Air Force, powered the Blackbird.  It would carry the most advanced observation equipment in the world.

            Speculation began immediately that Beale Air Force Base, California would be the home of this new super aircraft.  In December 1964, the Department of Defense announced that the 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing would activate at Beale AFB on 1 January 1965 as the parent unit of the Lockheed SR‑71.  To prepare Beale AFB for its new mission, contractors lengthened the runway, remodeled the former Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) building, and constructed several new facilities, including 337 additional housing units.

            The "Blackbird" first flew at Palmdale, California on 22 December 1964.  During the flight, the aircraft exceeded 1,000 mph at more than 45,000 feet of altitude.  In January 1966, the first SR-71 touched down on the Beale runway.  The first T-38, a Northrop built aircraft to be used as a trainer and chase plane for the SR-71, had arrived six months earlier.

            In October 1965, Fifteenth Air Force suggested the 9th Bombardment Wing be redesignated as the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing to continue the proud history of the 9th.  The Air Force accepted the suggestion.  On 25 June 1966, the 4200SRW inactivated and the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing transferred to Beale to take its place.  The Air Force also activated the 9th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron to replace the 4200RTS.  Both the 1st and 99th squadrons moved with the 9th, while the 5th inactivated.

            The SR-71 was a technological marvel and gave the 9SRW a unique mission.  The Blackbird could outperform all previous reconnaissance aircraft.  Its versatility ranged from simple battlefield surveillance, to multiple-sensor, high performance, interdiction reconnaissance, to specialized strategic surveillance of large areas of the world.  Flying at more than 2,000 mph with a 45 degree viewing angle on each side, above 80,000 feet the SR-71 could survey 60,000 square miles in an hour.  The airplane carried a crew of two--a pilot and a reconnaissance systems Officer (RSO).  Crewmembers were volunteers, under 35 years old, with a minimum of 1,500 hours of jet time.  The RSO had to be a highly qualified navigator. 

            For the remainder of 1966, the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing developed the organization and infrastructure necessary for SR-71 operations.  The wing included a Director of Intelligence and a Director of Tests, who monitored the exhaustive testing program in the primary stages.  The wing also needed its own supply squadron to handle the specialized supplies and equipment this unique aircraft would need.  When the 9SRW passed the Maintenance Standardization and Evaluation Team (MSET) inspection in March 1967, with the highest rating ever given a SAC wing, wing leaders knew their unit was ready.

            The SR-71 quickly became an important information source for U.S. commanders in Vietnam.  Until the end of the war, the 9SRW gathered photographic and electronic intelligence data on the Southeast Asian nations involved in the conflict.  Despite the SR-71's speed and operating altitude, crews risked their lives daily to obtain the latest and best reconnaissance data.  Rescuers used SR-71 photos of North Vietnam to plan the raid on Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp to free American POWs.

            Following the end of American involvement in Vietnam, the 9th SRW turned to more peaceful accomplishments.  The most spectacular of these were the SR-71 speed runs from New York to London and from London to Los Angeles.  On 1 September 1974, Major James Sullivan and his RSO, Major Noel Widdefield, flew their SR-71 from New York to London in one hour, 55 minutes, 42 seconds, an average speed of 1,817 mph.  A Royal Air Force F‑4 "Phantom" had set the old record of four hours, 46 minutes in 1969.  A few days later, on 13 September, Captain Harold "Buck" Adams, with Major William Machorek as RSO, established another record, flying the 5,645 miles from London to Los Angeles in three hours, 48 minutes.

            The wing's assault on speed records continued in 1976.  On 27 July, Major Adolphus Bledsoe, pilot, and Major John Fuller, RSO, flew the SR-71 over the 1,000-kilometer closed-course at 2,092 mph, beating the Soviet MIG-25 "Foxbat's" record of 1,853 mph by more than 200 mph.  The next day, Captain Eldon Joersz, with Major George T. Morgan as RSO, broke the YF-12A's record of 2,070 for the 15-25 kilometer straight course by flying 2,194 mph.  Also, on 28 July, Captain Robert Helt and Major Larry Elliot's flight to 85,131 feet broke the YF‑12A's altitude record for horizontal flight.

            On 1 July 1976, the 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron rejoined the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing after a stint with the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.  With the 99th came the Air Force's other high-altitude reconnaissance platform, Lockheed's U-2 "Dragon Lady."  For the first time the nation's high altitude reconnaissance assets resided in one wing.  Although much of the U-2s early operational success is still cloaked in secrecy, the Dragon Lady gained national and international recognition with overflights of the USSR and China and during the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam conflict.  The U-2R, an improved version of the 1955 vintage U-2A, could spend more time "on-station" and cover longer distances without refueling than the SR-71.  It was also less expensive to operate.

            The 9th Wing continued to evolve as the Air Force's first TR‑1 arrived at Beale AFB on the 1 August 1981 and the first production model was assigned six weeks later.  A descendent of the U-2, the Lockheed-built TR-1 would gather tactical reconnaissance data in the European Theater.  Later, the Air Force would drop the TR-1 designation and this aircraft series would also be called U-2s.  With the new aircraft's arrival, the Air Force activated the 4029th Strategic Reconnaissance Training Squadron on 1 August 1981 to train all TR-1 and U-2 pilots.  In 1986 the Air Force changed the squadron's designation to the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Training Squadron, renewing the 5th Squadron's longtime association with the 9th Wing.

            As the importance of intelligence collection increased in the 1980s, the wing operated detachments (permanent units) and operating locations (temporary sites) around the world.  The British government publicly announced, on 5 April 1982, the stationing of the SR-71 at Detachment 4, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.  The wing also established Operating Location OLYMPIC FLAME (OL-OF), a new U-2 location at Patrick AFB, Florida, on 29 January 1982.  OL-OF became Detachment 5 on 1 January 1983.  As world events dictate the need for accurate and timely reconnaissance data, the 9th Wing has operated OL's and detachments around the globe, including Korea, Panama, Okinawa, Cyprus, and Saudi Arabia.  An Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (7th oak leaf cluster) for the 1 July 1981 to 30 June 1982 confirmed the excellence with which the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing performed its expanded mission.

            Both the mission and organization of the 9SRW expanded significantly in the early 1980s.  On 15 March 1983 the Air Force inactivated the 100th Air Refueling Wing and transferred its refueling and base support missions to the 9th Wing.  The 349th and 350th Air Refueling Squadrons became part of the wing and the 9th Combat Support Group and 9th Supply, Transportation, Services, Security Police, and Civil Engineering Squadrons activated.  The consolidation smoothed the reconnaissance tasking and response process.



A Time of Change


            A unique chapter of the 9th's history ended on 1 January 1990 when the SR-71 retired.  High maintainability and operating costs and the availability of similar intelligence from other sources convinced Air Force officials the aircraft was no longer vital to the national defense.  But the Blackbird went out with gusto.  On 28 March 1990 Major Don Watkins and his RSO, Major Bob Fowlkes, flew the last SR-71 flight from Beale AFB to the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.  Just three weeks before, on 6 March, Lieutenant Colonels Ed Yeilding and J.T. Vida set four new speed records:

West Coast to East Coast of USA

(National Record-Speed Over a Recognized Course): Coast to Coast Distance: 2,404.05 statute miles, Time: 1 hr 07 min 53.69 secs, Average Speed: 2,124.51 mph

Los Angeles To Washington D.C.

(World Record): Distance: 2,299.67 statute miles, Time: 1 hr 04 min 19.89 secs, Average Speed: 2,144.83 mph

St Louis To Cincinnati

(World Record): Distance: 311.44 statute miles, Time: 8 mins 31.97 secs, Average Speed: 2,189.94 mph

Kansas City To Washington D.C.

(World Record): Distance: 942.08 statute miles, Time: 25 mins 58.53 secs, Average Speed: 2176.08 mph

Note:  The above records were confirmed on the 15th March 1990 after the initial release on the 6th March 1990, in the same corresponding order of  212.62 mph, 2153.24 mph, 2205.48 mph and 2242.48 mph


            In 1994 Congress allocated $100 million to reactivate three SR-71s.  The Senate Appropriations Committee acknowledged that SR-71 had a unique operational capability that no other system could match.  Committee members believed the reasons for the aircraft's 1990 retirement were no longer valid.  The wing activated Detachment 2 at Edwards AFB, California to support SR-71 operations.  The Air Force accepted the first renovated Blackbird on 28 June 1995.  The SR-71 was again operational with a mission-ready crew on 29 August 1995.  President Bill Clinton exercised his line-item veto power, however, and eliminated the Congressionally approved $39 million allocated to the SR-71 program in the fiscal year (FY) 1998 budget.  Detachment 2 immediately ceased operations.  The Supreme Court later declared presidential line-item veto authority unconstitutional.  The future of the SR-71 program remained uncertain.  Congress did not include funding for the program in its FY1999 budget.  On 7 April 1998, Air Combat Command received a message from the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force ordering cessation of SR-71 operations and disposal of all related assets.  The last member of Detachment 2 left Edwards AFB, CA on 10 January 1999.  Upon transfer of the two remaining airframes to Air Force Materiel Command, Air Combat Command declared the SR-71 retirement complete as of 15 July 1999.  Air Combat Command inactivated Detachment 2, 9th Operations Group, Edwards AFB, CA on 1 August 1999.

            In the dynamic period of the late 80’s and early 90’s, the wing's U-2s continued the unit's tradition of providing important information to the National Command Authorities.  The wing's most notable intelligence operation took place from August 1990 to March 1991 in Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM.  In the largest U-2 deployment ever, the wing flew more than 800 missions over the Persian Gulf region.  U‑2s tracked Iraqi troop and armor buildups, assessed bomb damage, and monitored a massive oil spill in the Persian Gulf.  U-2 pilots even alerted the anti-missile network of inbound Scud missiles.  When the ground war ended and most troops returned home, 9th Wing personnel and the U-2s remained in the region to help the United Nations verify Iraqi compliance with the terms of the cease‑fire agreement.

            In the early 1990s the wing’s personnel and aircraft provided reconnaissance coverage during the crises in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.  Later, wing U-2s verified compliance with the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the immediate crisis.  Then, when Serbia began the “ethnic cleansing?of Albanians in Kosovo, Operation ALLIED FORCE halted the killing and restored order.  During Operation ALLIED FORCE, 9th Reconnaissance Wing U-2s provided over 80% of the targeting intelligence for NATO forces.  NATO leadership credited the U-2 with the destruction of 39 surface-to-air missile sites and 28 aircraft of the Serbian military.

            The wing's KC-135Q tankers also contributed during the Gulf War.  Carrying U-2 support people and equipment, the tankers allowed the wing to deploy immediately and begin flying reconnaissance missions over the region.  During this initial deployment, the tankers escorted F-117A stealth fighters to the war zone, then served as the F-117's primary refuelers during the war.

            Besides providing global reconnaissance, the 9th Wing served the local and national communities in other times of crisis.  In February 1986, for example, a devastating flood swept through the neighboring towns of Linda and Olivehurst.  The wing welcomed 4,502 people forced from their homes by the flood.  The base set up several centers to shelter and feed the evacuees until the water level dropped and they could return to their homes.

            In July 1989 the wing flew several missions over Ethiopia, searching for an airplane carrying Congressman Mickey Leland.  Later, in October 1989, at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the wing flew U-2 photo missions over the San Francisco and Oakland areas after the strong Loma Prieta earthquake.  U-2s surveyed earthquake damage over California's Yucca Valley, in June and July 1992, and Northridge in 1994.  The reconnaissance photographs helped geologists map surface ruptures, fault lines, and potential landslide sites.  The pictures also pinpointed infrastructure damage and allowed local and national planners to assess the relief and recovery needs.

            One constant of the wing's history is change.  On 1 January 1990, 14th Air Division became the host unit at Beale AFB.  As a result, the 9th wing became a tenant unit and its support units inactivated.  This change was short-lived, however, as the Air Force inactivated the 14th Air Division, on 1 September 1991, and restored the wing's support units.  In the 14th AD's place Second Air Force activated at Beale AFB to serve as the Air Force's reconnaissance command.   On the same day, the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing transferred from Fifteenth Air Force to Second Air Force and again became the host unit on Beale AFB.  On 1 June 1992, the Air Force inactivated Strategic Air Command and the wing joined the newly activated Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, Virginia.  Second Air Force moved from Air Combat Command to the Air Education and Training Command on 1 July 1993 and the 9th Wing became a subordinate unit of 12th Air Force, Davis‑Monthan AFB, Arizona.

            The wing also underwent its own organization and designation changes.  When the Air Force returned to the group organizational concept, on 19 September 1991, the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing became, simply, the 9th Wing.  This action also activated the 9th Operations Group (lineal descendant of WWII's 9th Bombardment Group), the 9th Support Group, the 9th Logistics Group, and the 9th Medical Group.  These new groups would streamline and consolidate wing operations.  The reorganization strengthened the wing's chain of command by replacing deputy commanders with group commanders.  Further Air Force reorganization moved the KC‑135 tankers from Air Combat Command to Air Mobility Command in 1994, therefore, on 1 October 1994, the wing's designation changed again to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing to reflect a more specialized mission.

            Another step in the wing's restructuring, the 9th and 609th Organizational Maintenance Squadrons inactivated and the flightline maintenance people moved to the flying squadrons.  Several former OMS elements (tanker phase, U-2 periodic inspections, aero repair, and the wheel and tire shop) transferred to the 9th Field Maintenance Squadron, which was re-designated the 9th Maintenance Squadron.

            On 27 July 2001 the 9th Reconnaissance Wing learned it would add another high-altitude aircraft to its inventory, when the Air Force announced the Global Hawk would join the wing.  The Global Hawk, an unmanned vehicle capable of flying at 65,000 feet for 24 hours, would be a perfect complement to the U-2.  The wing added the historic 12th Reconnaissance Squadron, which dated from 1917, on 8 November to be the parent organization for the Global Hawk.

            The 9th Reconnaissance Wing currently operates the U-2S from Beale AFB and several overseas detachments.  The wing continues to serve the nation's interests by providing America's leaders with the latest intelligence data and theater commanders with the latest tactical information available.  Ever mindful of their unique responsibilities and distinguished history, the men and women of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing wear the same patches as their pre-World War II predecessors, and the wing's motto "Semper Paratus," which means "Always Ready," is as true today as it was when first approved in 1924.        

    The Above History  is courtesy of 
                  9th Rreconnaissance Wing Historian                                     
      Beale AFB  California.
Many Thanks Coy for permission to include this History on my site.
ORGANISED (Unofficially)


1st Aero Squadron, Provisional. 5th March 1913 Field Order No 1 , 1st Aero Sq.      

  5 Mar 1913

ORGANISED (Officially)


1st Aero Squadron 8th December 1913 WD G.O. No 77,                              

  8 Dec 1913

REDESIGNATED 1st Aero Squadron (Signal Corps) 17 April 1915 Chief Signal Office Ltr,                 

  17 Apr 1915

REDESIGNATED 1st Aero Squadron (Observation) Air Service. 14th March 1921 WD Circular No 67, 1921
REDESIGNATED 1st Observation Squadron, Air Service. 25th January 1923


WD Circular No 6, 1923
REDESIGNATED 1st Observation Squadron, Air Corps. 8th August 1926


WD Bulletin No 8, 1926
REDESIGNATED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Air Corps. 1st March 1935 WD Ltr AG320.2(2-12-35)Misc(Ret)-C, 19 Feb 1935


REDESIGNATED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Medium. 6th Decmber1939 WD Ltr AG 320.2(11-6-39) M (Ret) MC, 7 Dec 39


REDESIGNATED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Heavy.


  No Authority Available
ORGANISED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Heavy. 1st November 1942 G.O. No 3 HQ AAF, School Of Applied Tactics, 1 Nov 1942, pursuant to authority contained in WD Letter AG 320.2 (10-27-42) OD-I-AF-M, 26 Oct 1942.


REDESIGNATED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy. 26th March 1944 G.O. No 45 HQ Second Air Force, 12 April 1944, pursuant to authority contained in WD Letter AG 322

(10 may 44) CC-IAFRPG-M, 28 Mar 1944.




1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photo.


10th October 1948


G.O No 62, HQ SAC , 8 Oct 1948


REORGANISED 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photo.-Reorganised at Topeka AFB, Kansas. 10th October 1948 G.O No 62, HQ SAC , 8 Oct 48
REDESIGNATED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Heavy. 1st April 1950


G.0. No 13 HQ SAC 26 Sep 50
REDESIGNATED 1st Bombardment Squadron, Medium. 2nd October 1950 G.O. No 63, HQ SAC 26 Sep 50
REDESIGNATED 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. 25th June 1966.


S.O. G-59, HQ SAC, 13 Apr 66
REDESIGNATED 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (Training). 1st July 1990.


S.O. GB-67,HQ SAC , 25 Jun 90
REDESIGNATED 1st Reconnaissance Squadron. 1st June 1992 S.O.  GB-18. HQ ACC . 1 Jun 92
ORGANISED 5th Aero Squadron 5th May 1917
REDESIGNATED Squadron A 15 Jul 1918, Demobilised 11 Nov 1918. Reconstituted and Consolidated with the 5th Aero Squadron


REDESIGNATED 5th Squadron ( Observation)  

14th March 1921


REDESIGNATED 5th Observation Squadron  

25th Jan 1923


REDESIGNATED 5th Bombardment Squadron  

1st March 1935


REDESIGNATED 5th Bombardment Squadron, Medium  

6th December 1939


REDESIGNATED 5th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy  

20 Nov 1940


REDESIGNATED 5th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy  

28 Mar 1944


REDESIGNATED 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photo.  

Activated 1 May 1949


REDESIGNATED 5th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy  

1 Apr 1950


REDESIGNATED 5th Bombardment Squadron, Medium 2 Oct 1950 Discontinued and Inactivated  25 Jun1966


REDESIGNATED 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Training  Squadron, 12 Feb 1986            

 Activated 1 Jul 1986,

Inactivated 30 Jun 1990.

REDESIGNATED 5th Reconnaissance Squadron,  

21 sep 1994 -

 Activated        1 Oct 1994

ORGANISED 99th Aero Squadron 21 Aug 1917          Demobilised 9 Jun 1919.
ORGANISED 99th Squadron ( Observation) 14th March 1921
REDESIGNATED 99th Observation Squadron  

25th Jan 1923,        Inactivated 31 Jul 1927,


Activated 9 Nov 1928

REDESIGNATED 99th Bombardment Squadron  

1st March 1935,


REDESIGNATED 99th Bombardment Squadron, Medium  

6th December 1939


REDESIGNATED 99th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy  

20 Nov 1940


REDESIGNATED 99th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy  

28 Mar 1944,         Inactivated 20 Oct 1948.


REDESIGNATED 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photo.  

Activated 1 May 1949,   


REDESIGNATED 99th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy  

1 Apr 1950


REDESIGNATED 99th Bombardment Squadron, Medium  

2 Oct 1950,   25 Jun 1966     

Inactivated  1 Apr 1971,

Activated 1 Nov 1972.

REDESIGNATED 99th Reconnaissance Squadron,  

21 sep 1991







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