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9th Reconnaissance Wing
9th Reconnaissance Wing.png
Emblem of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing
Active 1949–Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Wing
Role Reconnaissance
Size 3,000 personnel
Part of Air Combat Command
Garrison/HQ Beale Air Force Base
Motto "Semper Paratus"
Always Ready
Engagements World War IIAmerican Campaign (1941–1943)
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign
Tokyo firebombing, 9 March 1945
Kawasaki, DUC 15 April 1945
Mining campaign, DUC May 1945
71 combat missions
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg

Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA w/ V Device

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9 RW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Combat Command Eighth Air Force. It is stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California. The wing is also the host unit at Beale.

Its mission is to organize, train and equip U-2R Dragonlady and RQ-4 Global Hawk combat elements for peacetime intelligence gathering, contingency operations, conventional war fighting and Emergency War Order support.

The wing has a long and distinguished history. Its 9th Operations Group is a descendant organization of the 9th Group (Observation), one of the 13 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.

During World War II, the 9th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces. Active for over 60 years, the 9 RW was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force throughout the Cold War, performing strategic reconnaissance on a worldwide basis.

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing is commanded by Brigadier General Robert P. "Bob" Otto. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant James E. Parkhill, Jr..



The 9 RW is responsible for providing national and theater command authorities with timely, reliable, high-quality, high-altitude reconnaissance products. To accomplish this mission, the wing is equipped with the nation's fleet of U-2 and RQ-4 reconnaissance aircraft and associated support equipment. The wing also maintains a high state of readiness in its expeditionary combat support forces for potential deployment in response to theater contingencies.


The wing is composed of more than 3,000 personnel in four groups at Beale and multiple overseas operating locations:


For additional history and lineage, see 9th Operations Group


The crest and motto were approved for the 9th Reconnaissance Wing on 1 July 1952 upon its inherited lineage of the 9th Bombardment Group. The shield, in black and green, represents the old colors of the Air Service parted by a wavy line representing the Rio Grande and the 1st Aero Squadron's operations in 1916. On the gold band are four black crosses representing four WWI offensives, Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne, and St. Mihiel, in which squadrons later assigned to the 9th Wing fought. The crest recalls the service in Mexico of the 1st Aero Squadron.


  • Established as 9 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on 25 Apr 1949
Activated on 1 May 1949
Redesignated: 9 Bombardment Wing, Heavy, on 1 Apr 1950
Redesignated: 9 Bombardment Wing, Medium, on 2 Oct 1950
Redesignated: 9 Strategic Aerospace Wing on 1 Apr 1962
Redesignated: 9 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on 25 Jun 1966
Redesignated: 9 Wing on 1 Sep 1991
Redesignated: 9 Reconnaissance Wing on 1 Oct 1993.


Attached to: 7th Air Division, 23 May-11 Jul 1955
Attached to: 3d Air Division, 3–22 Oct 1955 and 1 Oct 1957-c. 10 Jan 1958





  • 1 Bombardment (later, 1 Strategic Reconnaissance): attached 10 Feb 1951-15 Jun 1952, assigned 16 Jun 1952-1 Sep 1991
  • 5 Bombardment (later, 5 Strategic Reconnaissance Training): attached 10 Feb 1951-15 Jun 1952, assigned 16 Jun 1952-25 Jun 1966; assigned 1 Jul 1986-30 Jun 1990
  • 9 Air Refueling: 16 Jun 1952-15 Dec 1965 (detached 16 Jun 1952-30 Apr 1953)
  • 38 Reconnaissance: attached 26 May-1 Jun 1949
  • 95 Reconnaissance: 30 Jun 1991-15 Sep 1993
  • 97 Air Refueling: 15 Jul 1961-1 Jul 1962 (detached)
  • 99 Bombardment (later, 99 Strategic Reconnaissance): attached 10 Feb 1951-15 Jun 1952, assigned 16 Jun 1952– 1 Apr 1971; assigned 30 Jun 1976-1 Sep 1991
  • 349 Air Refueling: 15 Mar 1983-1 Sep 1991
  • 350 Air Refueling: 15 Mar 1983-1 Sep 1991
  • 569 Strategic Missile: 1 Jun 1961-25 Jun 1965
  • 658 Bombardment: 1 Oct 1958-1 Jan 1962
  • 4029 Strategic Reconnaissance Training: 1 Aug 1981– 1 Jul 1986
  • 4364 Support (later, 4364th Post Attack Command and Control): 20 Jul 1962-25 Mar 1965.


Aircraft and Missiles

  • B/RB-17, 1949–1950
  • B-29, 1949–1954; RB-29, 1949–1951; KB-29, 1953
  • RB-36, 1949–1950, 1951
  • B-47, 1954–1966
  • KC-97, 1954–1965
  • Titan I, 1962–1965
  • EB-47, 1962–1965
  • T-38, 1969–Present
  • SR-71, 1966–1990
  • U-2, 1976–1991; TR-1, 1981–1993
  • KC-135, 1983–1993
  • SR-71, 1995–1999


Cold War

On 1 May 1949 the group was activated as 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and activated at Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base, California,

9th BG crest as part of 9th Bombardment Wing

The 9th Group not only conducted photoreconnaissance missions for the Strategic Air Command (SAC), using B-29, RB-29, and RB-17 aircraft, but also trained with several B-36s assigned during 1949–1950. It also performed its mission with components of 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, from November 1949 – February 1951.

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing became a bomber unit again on 1 April 1950, re designated the 9th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, and after it converted to the B-29 Flying Fortress, was re designated the 9th Bombardment Wing (Medium) on 2 October 1950. In February 1951 the three bomb squadrons of the group were attached to the Wing in preparation for a phase-out by SAC of its groups. The 9th also participated in strategic bombardment training from February 1951 to December 1965.

Throughout the 1960s, the wing did many things for the Air Force. This included the conducting of Strategic Air Command (SAC) airborne communications relay missions from December 1962 to March 1965. They also controlled a Titan missile complex from June 1961– June 1965.

Move and Mission Change

The wing phased down operations at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho from January to June 1966, and moved to their present home of Beale Air Force Base in California.

The wing was then equipped with the SR-71 Blackbird in 1966, absorbing resources of the inactivating 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. This allowed it to stay with the same higher formation, the 14th Strategic Aerospace Division. The wing performed strategic reconnaissance in Southeast Asia beginning in 1968. It also provided photographic intelligence for the Son Tay prison camp raid named Operation Ivory Coast, in North Vietnam, November 1970.

Post-Vietnam Era

After the Vietnam War, the 9th conducted photographic reconnaissance mission’s worldwide supporting Department of Defense objectives.

The wing added U-2R Dragon Lady spy planes in 1976 and specialized KC-135Q Stratotanker aircraft in 1983. This made it the only USAF wing equipped with these aircraft. It then used these aircraft to participate in USAF operations worldwide, including Grenada in October–November 1983, and Libya in April 1986.

Gulf War

Following the 1990 retirement of SR-71, the U-2 flew intelligence-gathering missions from August 1990 to March of 1991. These flights occurred over Southwest Asia, particularly during the Gulf War buildup and subsequent combat operations.

On 1 September 1991, the 9th Group was activated as the 9th Operations Group, as part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California. The 9th Operations Group has five squadrons and one detachment totaling more than 500 personnel.

Modern Day

A flight crew fuels an RQ-4

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing is the "single-point manager" for the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance fleets. During U.S. military operations in Afghanistan in late 2001 and Iraq in early 2003, the wing also flew the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft.

On 19 July 2007 the first operational Global Hawk deployment from Beale began at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, where the Global Hawk is scheduled to be stationed permanently starting in 2009.


Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

  • 1 September 1991 to 30 June 1993
  • 1 July 1994 to 30 June 1995
  • 1 June 1996 to 31 May 1998
  • 1 June 1998 to 31 May 2000
  • 1 June 2000 to 31 May 2002


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

  • Mixer, Ronald E., Genealogy of the STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND, Battermix Publishing Company, 1999
  • Mixer, Ronald E., STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND, An Organizational History, Battermix Publishing Company, 2006.
  • Maurer, Maurer, Air Force Combat Units of World War II, Office of Air Force history (1961). ISBN 0-405-12194-6
  • Morrison, Wilbur H., Point of No Return: The Story of the Twentieth Air Force (1979), ISBN 0-8129-0738-8
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings 1947–1977, Office of Air Force History (1984). ISBN 0-912799-12-9
  • Rogers, Brian. United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, UK: Midland Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Air Force Historical Research Agency fact sheet
  • Official fact sheet

External links


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