45th Reconnaissance Squadron

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 worldwide reconnaissance, treaty monitoring, and pilot proficiency training.

45th Reconnaissance Squadron
RC-135 Cobra Ball aircraft parked at Offutt.jpg
45th Reconnaissance Squadron's RC-135 Cobra Ball together on the flightline at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.[note 1]
Active1943–1949; 1950–1971; 1971–1975; 1982–1989; 1994 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleReconnaissance and Surveillance
Part of55th Operations Group
Garrison/HQOffutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer.jpg
    World War II EAME Theatre
  • Korean Service Medal - Streamer.png
    Korean War
  • Streamer VS.PNG
    Vietnam War[1]
  • 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[1]
45th Reconnaissance Squadron emblem (approved 29 December 1952)[1]45th Reconnaissance Squadron.png
423d Night Fighter Squadron emblem423d Night Fighter Squadron - Emblem.png

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 worldwide reconnaissance and treaty missions on demand, often on extremely short notice. The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron provides data for the National Command Authority, theater commanders, and international treaty members.


Squadron personnel fly worldwide reconnaissance and treaty missions on demand, often on extremely short notice. The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron provides data for the National Command Authority, theater commanders, and international treaty members.[2]


World War IIEdit

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 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 Northrop YP-61 Black Widow.[note 2] In January, training was interrupted when the night fighter school moved from Florida to Hammer Field, California. After the relocation, the squadron completed its training in March 1944.[3]

The 423d deployed to England and was assigned to IX Tactical Air Command at RAF Charmy Down. Charmy Down eventually would become the home of three night fighter squadrons (422d, 423d, and 424th), however the squadron arrived unequipped 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.[3]

155th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron A-20 Havoc[note 3]

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 redesignated as the 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron and moved to RAF Chalgrove.[3] 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 squadron's base and based on the intelligence gathered by the squadron, interdiction strikes would be carried out.

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 moved to Germany as part of the occupation forces i July 1945, first at AAF Station Kassel/Rothwesten, then at AAF Station Darmstadt/Griesheim, AAF Station Fürth, and at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base. After the war with the reformation of the Air National Guard in the United States, the unit's designation was changed to the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Night Photographic,[1] as units in the 101–299 range were assigned to the new Air National Guard units.

President Truman's reduced 1949 defense budget also required reductions in the number of units in the Air Force.[4] As a result, the squadron was inactivated on 25 March 1949 in West Germany.

Korean WarEdit

The squadron was redesignated the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron 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 Lockheed 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 North American 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.[5]

45th TRS RF-51 Mustang, South Korea, 1950

Six month after the Korean War began, on 27 December 1950, the squadron deployed to Taegu Air Base (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.[dubious ] At its base at Taegu, and later at Kimpo Air Base (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 lacked 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.[6]

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 they would encounter. However the Mustang had the advantage of 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 Republic 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.[6]

In August 1952, the RF-51s, becoming war-weary, were replaced by Lockheed 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 Douglas 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 redesignated the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic-Jet.[6]

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.[6]

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.[6]

After the armistice in Korea, the squadron remained at Kimpo.[citation needed] Its mission was to be ready in case of a resumption of combat on the peninsula. It still operated aircraft along the Korean demilitarized zone, 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.

In March 1955, the squadron withdrew to Misawa Air Base, Japan where it was equipped with the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash. Its parent wing, the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, was 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 WarEdit

In August 1958, the squadron's 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. A detachment of the squadron was sent from Japan to Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base, co-located with Bangkok's international airport, in Thailand, to fly high-speed reconnaissance missions over South Vietnam. 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 home.[1]

Squadron RF-101C at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, 1969[note 4]

In December 1962, another detachment was deployed to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, near Saigon, South Vietnam. Its mission was to fly intelligence gathering flights. Squadron aircraft and personnel began rotational temporary duty 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 redesignated the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 January 1967. It operated from Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in 1966, then returned to Tan Son Nhut where it operated until withdrawn in December 1970 and returned to Misawa as part of the withdrawal 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, the squadron's 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]

Tactical Air CommandEdit

On 15 October 1971, the squadron was activated at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas as a McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II squadron.[1] Its parent 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing replaced the 75th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, with the squadron assuming the personnel, mission and equipment of the 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, which was simultaneously inactivated.[9][10]

Squadron TRS RF-4Cs on the ramp at Bergstrom AFB, 1972[note 5]

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. In the wake of the post-Vietnam reduction of the Air Force, the squadron was inactivated on 31 October 1975[1] and its aircraft were transferred to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, where they equipped the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.[10]

On 8 September 1981 the 45th was again reactivated as the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Training Squadron.[1] The 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was transitioning from to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon as a tactical fighter wing and its RF-4Cs were moved to Bergstrom.[10] It began operations at Bergstrom on 1 April 1982. The unit trained over 600 students[10] and supported numerous operational deployments and exercises until it was inactivated on 30 September 1989,[1] when the RF-4C was being withdrawn from the inventory.

C-135 operationsEdit

The squadron was redesignated the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron and, on 1 July 1994, was activated at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.[1] It assumed the mission of the former 24th Reconnaissance Squadron, which was simultaneously inactivated.[10]


  • 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 alsoEdit



Explanatory notes
  1. ^ These aircraft are rarely seen in the same place at the same time due to the squadron's worldwide reconnaissance missions.
  2. ^ Neither Maurer nor Robertson indicate the squadron ever flew the P-61. Robertson, Maurer, Combat Squadrons pp. 355–356.
  3. ^ Aircraft is Douglas A-20J-15-DO Havoc (converted to F-3A) serial 43-21731 at St Dizier/Robinson Airdrome (A-64), France, October 1944.
  4. ^ Aircraft is McDonnell RF-101C serial 56–176.
  5. ^ McDonnell RF-4C-33-MC Phantom II serial 67-430 is in the foreground.
  6. ^ Detachment 1, 45 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was officially attached, but essentially the entire squadron was contained in Detachment 1.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Robertson, Patsy (6 May 2013). "Factsheet 45 Reconnaissance Squadron (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Offutt AFB Newcomer's Guide 2017/2018". Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Pape, Campbell & Campbell,[page needed]
  4. ^ Knaack, p. 25
  5. ^ Thompson,[page needed]
  6. ^ a b c d e Neufeld & Watson,[page needed] (also need author and article identification)
  7. ^ McLaren,[page needed]
  8. ^ a b c Baugher, Joseph F. (25 March 2002). "McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo". joebuagher.com. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  9. ^ Ravenstein, pp. 106, 113
  10. ^ a b c d e "45th Reconnaissance Squadron [45RS]". globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  11. ^ Station number in Anderson.


  This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External linksEdit