45th Reconnaissance Squadron

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45th Reconnaissance Squadron
RC-135 Cobra Ball aircraft parked at Offutt.jpg
The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron's RC-135 Cobra Ball are brought together on the flightline at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. These aircraft are rarely seen in the same place at the same time due to its worldwide reconnaissance missions.
Active 1943-1949; 1950-1971; 1971-1975; 1982-1989; 1994-Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Squadron
Role Reconnaissance and Surveillance
Part of 55th Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
  • 150px
    World War II EAME Theatre
  • Korean Service Medal - Streamer.png
    Korean War
  • 150px
    Vietnam War
  • Streamer PUC Army.PNG
    Distinguished Unit Citation (Korea) (3x)
  • Streamer PUC Army.PNG
    Presidential Unit Citation (Vietnam) (3x)
  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (4x)
  • AFOUA with Valor.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device (5x)
  • AF MUA Streamer.JPG
    Air Force Meritorious Unit Award (6x)
  • US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (10x)
  • Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Streamer.png
    Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
  • Vietnam Gallantry Cross - Streamer.jpg
    Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Emblem of the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron 45th Reconnaissance Squadron.png

The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 55th Operations Group and stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. It is one of the most decorated squadrons of the active duty United States Air Force with a combat record in three wars, and a peacetime record of vital contributions to world-wide reconnaissance, treaty monitoring, and pilot proficiency training.

The unit was formed during World War II initially as a night interceptor squadron and deployed to England as part of Ninth Air Force. A lack of night interceptor aircraft led the squadron to be converted into a night photographic squadron engaging in combat missions over France, the Low Countries and Germany until the end of the war. It later saw service as a tactical reconnaissance squadron during the Korean War and Vietnam War. It was inactivated in 1994 as part of the cutbacks in the Air Force after the end of the Cold War.

Reactivated shortly afterwards, it assumed the mission of the former 24th Reconnaissance Squadron, which it replaced. Squadron personnel fly world-wide reconnaissance and treaty missions on demand, often on extremely short notice. The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron provides data for the National Command Authorities, theater CINCs, and international treaty members.


The mission of the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron is to maintain, operate, and support OC/RC/TC/EC/WC-135 aircraft providing worldwide reconnaissance and treaty support to the National Command Authorities, warfighters, and international treaty members.

Squadron personnel fly world-wide reconnaissance and treaty missions on demand, often on extremely short notice. The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron provides data for the National Command Authorities, theater CINCs, and international treaty members.[1]


World War II

The squadron was constituted on 17 August 1943 as the 423d Night Fighter Squadron at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida, however it wasn't organized as a unit until 1 October. The 423d was the second squadron of the third group of dedicated night fighter squadrons trained by the Army Air Forces. It initially trained with the Douglas P-70 Havoc night fighter at Orlando, although later that fall the squadron began to train with the Northrup YP-61 Black Widow. In January, training was interrupted when the night fighter school was moved from Florida to Hammer Army Airfield, California. After the relocation, the squadron completed its training in March 1944.[2]

The 423d was deployed to England and assigned to Ninth Air Force, stationed at RAF Charmy Down. Charmy Down eventually would become the home of three night fighter squadrons (422d, 423d, and 424th), however the squadron arrived un-equipped as the P-61 Black Widows were late in arriving. Subsequently, the squadron had its aircrews posted to various RAF night fighter and signal schools for theater indoctrination. Meanwhile, as there was no sign of the P-61s. the pilots kept up their flight time on Cessna UC-78s and de Havilland Mosquitoes.[2]

File:155th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron Douglas A-20J-15-DO Havoc (F-3A) 43-21731.jpg
155th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron Douglas A-20J-15-DO Havoc (F-3A) 43-21731 St Dizier/Robinson Airdrome (A-64), France, October 1944.

Finally, when the P-61s began to arrive in mid-May from California, there were insufficient aircraft to equip all three squadrons. The 423d was re-designated as the 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron and was transferred to RAF Chalgrove.[2] There, the squadron was equipped with some Douglas F-3 Havoc twin-engine reconnaissance aircraft. The night flying skills of the pilots trained for interceptor work was put to good use, being transitioned into night reconnaissance pilots. Finally, in early August, the squadron moved to France and became an independent unit under the 64th Fighter Wing. The squadron carried photo-flash bombs, illuminating various roads, bridges, railroads and other enemy targets. The photos would then be analyzed at the base and based on the intelligence gathered by the squadron, interdiction strikes would be carried out.[3]

The squadron moved across France and then into the Low Countries as the Allies advanced. In December 1944, the 155th was involved in the Battle of the Bulge. The squadron crossed into Germany at Kassel/Rothwestern in early July 1945, and was later stationed at Darmstadt, Furth, and Furstenfeldbruck as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe Army of Occupation. After the war with the re-formation of the Air National Guard in the United States, the units designation was changed to the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Night Photographic, as units in the 101-299 range were assigned to the new Air National Guard units.[3]

The squadron was inactivated on 25 March 1949 in West Germany a result of budget reductions.[1]

Korean War

As the focus of world attention shifted to the growing crisis in the Orient in 1950, the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Night Photographic was redesignated the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 19 September 1950 and activated on 26 September 1950 at Itazuke Air Base, Japan. When the Korean War erupted in late June 1950, the USAF's standard fighter in the Far East was the F-80 Shooting Star, however the F-80 and its reconnaissance version, the RF-80, were very short-legged. It was decided to equip the squadron with propeller-driven RF-51 Mustangs. Even though the Mustangs would be jet-bait for any North Korean MiG 15 jet fighters, it could be safely employed over South Korea, while the jet-equipped squadrons would engage Communist jets that only flew in North Korean airspace.[4]

File:45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron RF-51 Mustang.jpg
45th TRS RF-51 Mustang, South Korea, 1950

Six month after the Korean War began, on 27 December 1950, the squadron was deployed to Taegu AB (K-9), South Korea, and served in every major campaign throughout the war. Accurate battlefield intelligence was a top priority, and the 45th was assigned directly to the 314th Air Division, which was the main USAF command and control headquarters in theater. At its base at Taegu, and later at Kimpo AB (K-14), rapid film processing by the squadron was performed when the Mustangs returned from their missions. These photos were supposed to be passed over to the Army, who would provide their own photo interpreters; however as the Army had a lack of interpreters early in the conflict, therefore the Air Force handled the interpretation needs initially until the Army photo interpreters could arrive from the United States.[5]

As the U.N. offensive moved across the 38th parallel into North Korea, it was found that the squadron's pilots often had to fend for themselves since the Mustangs couldn't outrun the communist jets it would encounter. However the Mustang had the advantage out out-turning the MiGs and could fly lower than the jets. Also the MiGs would run out of fuel in a few minutes and turn back while the squadron's Mustangs could return to flying photo-reconnaissance. The squadron had much success with a technique called "Circle 10", whereby the pilots flew a ten-mile radius circle around an area where enemy activity was sighted the night before. The pilots would fly in the next day and note if something was out of place; the pilots of the 45th then would notify F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bomber pilots who would be dispatched to destroy enemy equipment or emplacements. Also the pilots of the 45th would often join in, using the Mustang's ground attack capabilities to shoot up targets of opportunity until the Thunderjets would come in with napalm bombs.[5]

In August 1952, the RF-51s, becoming war-weary, were replaced by RF-80A and RF-80C Shooting Star jet reconnaissance aircraft. One of the first missions flown by the squadron was to fly over a political school in North Korea which was reportedly training subversives to penetrate into South Korea. The squadron overflew the suspected school, and on 25 October, the target was attacked by some B-26 Invaders and destroyed. Over 1,000 students training for intelligence work at the school were reportedly killed. On 1 January 1953, the 45th was re designated the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic-Jet.[5]

File:RF-80A 45th TRS in Korea.jpg
A 45th TRS RF-80A during the Korean War

On 12 July 1953, squadron pilots on a reconnaissance mission revealed North Korean preparation for an attack on the stabilized front line. The communists had chosen a period of relatively bad weather to use as cover for the buildup for the attack; however the 45th had identified eighty-five enemy targets with low-flying aerial photography of the area. A B-29 raid was ordered and using SHORAN Radar to bomb through the cloud cover, the enemy forces building up for the attack were broken up.[5]

The last mission in the Korean War for the 45th was to take part in a maximum effort to photograph every airfield in North Korea just before the armistice was scheduled to take place on 27 July 1953. Also, clandestinely, airfields in Manchuria that had a potential for attacking U.N. Forces after the armistice began were to be photographed. A pilot of the 45th, flying an RF-80, was killed when shot down near the Yalu River. He was the last man killed in combat during the Korean War. The sortie he was flying was taken over by another pilot of the 45th, who returned to Kimpo at dusk.[5]

After the armistice in Korea, the squadron remained at Kimpo AB. Its mission was to be ready in case of a resumption of combat on the peninsula. It still operated aircraft along the Korean DMZ, monitoring the border for Communist aggression and provided photographic and electronic intelligence for areas and of targets of particular interest to Fifth Air Force (Project "Hawkeye"). It provided and maintained visual surveillance of Communist and United Nations forces activities; occasionally directed adjustment of long range artillery and naval gunfire during cease-fire violations.[6]

In March 1955, the squadron was withdrawn to Misawa AB, Japan where it was equipped with the RF-84 Thunderstreak. Assigned to the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, it was part of the sole USAF reconnaissance wing in the Pacific. The exact work of the squadron over the balance of the late 1950s and early 1960s remains classified to this day, but it is believed that there were reconnaissance missions flown over Communist China and southeastern portions of the Soviet Union by its aircraft.[7]

Vietnam War

In August 1958, the subsonic Thunderjets were replaced by the supersonic McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo, the first supersonic tactical reconnaissance aircraft in the USAF inventory.[8] In the early 1960s, the United States began to become more and more involved in the ongoing conflict in Vietnam, From its base at Misawa, a detachment of the squadron was ordered to Don Muang RTAFB, Thailand to fly high-speed reconnaissance missions over South Vietnam, in support of the government in Saigon. The detachment remained in Thailand until May 1962 and it returned to Misawa. It returned to Bangkok in November 1962, staying about a month until again returning.[1]

File:RF-101C 45TRS 460TRW TanSon Nhut 1969.jpg
45th TRS RF-101C (s/n 56–176) at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, 1969.

In December 1962, another detachment was deployed to Tan Son Nhut AB, near Saigon, South Vietnam. Its mission was to fly intelligence gathering flights. The squadron began rotational TDYs to Tan Son Nhut, which continued until November 1965. When the squadron began operations in Southeast Asia, the missions were initially medium-altitude single-aircraft flights over South Vietnam, although two-ship missions were allocated to particularly well-defended areas.[8]

The unit was re designated the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 January 1967. During its nine year involvement in the Vietnam War, the 45th was involved in most major operations of the war. It operated from Udorn RTAFB, Thailand in 1966, then returned to Tan Son Nhut where it operated until withdrawn in December 1970 and returned to Misawa AB as part of the withdraw of United States forces from South Vietnam.[1] The usefulness of the RF-101 to the war effort, was in large part, the reason for the aircraft to remain in the inventory throughout the 1960s.[8] Upon its return to Misawa AB, the squadrons aircraft, now relatively war-weary from nearly a decade of flying combat missions, were retired and the squadron became non-operational. It was inactivated on 31 May 1971.[1]

Cold War

On 5 October 1971, the squadron was activated at Bergstrom AFB, Texas as an RF-4C Phantom II squadron. Its parent 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing replaced the 75th TRW, with the 9th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron being inactivated and re-designated as the 45th.[3]

File:45th Tactical Reconnaissance Training Squadron - McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-33-MC Phantom - 67-0430.jpg
45th TRS RF-4Cs on the ramp at Bergstrom AFB, 1972. 67-0430 in foreground

After the re-designation in place, the squadron continued its mission of maintaining tactical reconnaissance mission forces capable of meeting worldwide operational requirements. The 45th participated in various training exercises while at Bergstrom, including a 1973 deployment to RAF Alconbury, England for a NATO exercise dubbed CREEK BEE II. In the wake of the post-Vietnam reduction of the Air Force, the squadron was inactivated on 31 October 1975 and its aircraft were reassigned to the 363d TFW at Shaw AFB, South Carolina,[3]

On 8 September 1981 it was again re-activated as the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Training Squadron. It received the RF-4C aircraft from the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Shaw AFB, South Carolina which was transitioning from a reconnaissance wing to an F-16 tactical fighter wing. It began operations at Bergstrom AFB, Texas on 1 April 1982. The unit trained over 600 students and supported numerous operational deployments and exercises until it was inactivated on 30 September 1989, when the RF-4C was being withdrawn from the inventory.[3]

Modern era

On 1 July 1994, the squadron was reactivated at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, as the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron. It assumed the mission of the former 24th Reconnaissance Squadron, which was inactivated on 30 June 1994. 45th Reconnaissance Squadron personnel are members of a professional team dedicated to the maintenance, operation, and support of the RC/OC/WC/TC-135 aircraft.


File:423d Night Fighter Squadron - Emblem.png
Emblem of the 423d Night Fighter Squadron
  • Constituted as the 423d Night Fighter Squadron on 17 August 1943
Activated on 1 October 1943
Redesignated 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron on 22 June 1944
Redesignated 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, Night Photographic on 3 December 1945
Redesignated 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Night Photographic on 1 July 1948
Inactivated on 25 March 1949
  • Redesignated 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 19 September 1950
Activated on 26 September 1950
Redesignated 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic-Jet on 1 January 1953
Redesignated 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 January 1967
Inactivated on 31 May 1971
  • Activated on 15 October 1971
Inactivated on 31 October 1975
  • Redesignated 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Training Squadron on 8 September 1981
Activated on 1 April 1982
Inactivated on 30 September 1989
  • Redesignated 45th Reconnaissance Squadron on 24 June 1994
Activated on 1 July 1994.[1]




See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links