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99th Reconnaissance Squadron
99th Reconnaissance Squadron - U-2R - 2010.jpg
U-2 Dragon Lady 80-1089 from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron taxis to the runway for takeoff
Active August 21, 1917 – June 9, 1919
July 2, 1919 – July 31, 1927
November 9, 1928 – October 20, 1948
May 1, 1949 – April 1, 1971
November 1, 1972 – Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Reconnaissance
Size Squadron
Part of ACC Shield.svg  Air Combat Command
Garrison/HQ Beale Air Force Base, California
Fuselage Code "BB"
Engagements World War I
World War II
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg DUC
Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA w/ V Device
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm
99th Reconnaissance Squadron.png

The 99th Reconnaissance Squadron (99 RS) is a squadron of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to the 9th Operations Group, Air Combat Command, stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California. The squadron is equipped with the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft.[1]

The 99 RS is one of the oldest units in the United States Air Force, first being organized as the 99th Aero Squadron on 21 August 1917 at Kelly Field, Texas. The squadron deployed to France and fought on the Western Front during World War I as a Corps observation squadron.[2] During World War II the unit served both in the Panama Canal Zone as an anti-submarine unit and in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) as part of Twentieth Air Force as a B-29 Superfortress bomber squadron. During the Cold War was part of Strategic Air Command equipped with B-47 Stratojet medium bombers, and later with the SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft.[3]


The 99th Reconnaissance Squadron is responsible for providing critical intelligence for use by the highest levels of our government. Squadron pilots fly the Lockheed U-2S aircraft as they continuously train to upgrade from normal aircraft commander status to that of instructor pilot status.

Pilots from the squadron frequently rotate overseas to support the wing's various operating locations. The squadron has one of the highest TDY rates in the Air Force, second only to that of the aircrews supporting the E-3 Sentry AWACS. This high operations tempo could not be effectively maintained without the crew chiefs assigned to the squadron who perform routine maintenance to keep the aircraft flying on a daily basis. In addition to the military reconnaissance mission, U-2 pilots fly many humanitarian, search and rescue and environmental missions.[4]

The current mission statement of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron is "To deploy and employ warrior Airmen and execute effective and sustained U-2 operations globally in support of National Objectives."


World War I[]

see 99th Aero Squadron for an expanded World War I history of the unit

Men of the 99th Aero Squadron with their Salmson 2A2s at Parois Airdrome, France, November 1918.

Organized at Kelly Field, Texas on 21 August 1917, the 99th Aero Squadron moved to Garden City, New York in early November and sailed for France on the fourteenth. After training in the Sopwith Camel and the Salmson 2, the squadron began flying combat missions in June 1918.[5]

Assigned to the V Corps Observation Group, United States First Army Air Service, the 99th Corps Observation Squadron was assigned to the Toul Sector of the French Western Front on 22 June. It served as a school squadron with V Army Corps Infantry Liaison School. On 19 July, was assigned to the St. Die sector during which time one flight of unit, operating in Vosges region of Alsace and Lorraine where it participated in combat with French XXXIII Corps.[4][6]

Between September 12 and 16 the squadron flew reconnaissance missions and directed artillery fire in support French 8th Army and the American V Army Corps during the St. Mihiel offensive. It also participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive between September 26 to November 11, 1918 when the Armistice with Germany was reached.[4][6]

The 99th Aero Squadron remained in France until 8 May 1919, then moved to Mitchel Field, New York where the unit was demobilized. The four black crosses on the 9th Reconnaissance Wing's emblem represent 1st and 99th Squadrons' participation at St. Mihiel, Argonne-Muesse, Champagne-Marne and Aisne-Marne.[4]

Inter-war period[]

The 99th Aero Squadron remained in France until 8 May 1919, then moved to Mitchel Field, New York. The unit became the 99th Observation Squadron in 1923. The Squadron was attached to the 9th Observation Group on 9 November 1928 and assigned to the group on 15 February 1929. The squadron flew Dayton-Wright DH-4Bs and Royal Aircraft Establishment SE-5s (Scouting Experimental). Both were World War I-vintage aircraft. During the 1920s the proficiency of squadron aircrews deteriorated until the 99th had no one proficient enough to participate in the 1929 bombing and gunnery matches.

With the creation of the GHQ Air Force on 1 March 1935, the group became the 9th Bombardment Group and the 99th became a bombardment squadron. With the new mission came new airplanes. The new bombardment squadron received American-made Martin B-10s in 1936 and Douglas B-18s in 1938. Squadron members trained hard learning the tactics and maneuvers of their new aircraft and new mission.

World War II[]

Antisubmarine warfare[]

Re-activated as the 99th Observation Squadron on November 9, 1928 at Mitchel Field, New York.[7] An element of the 9th Bombardment Group, the unit arrived at Rio Hato Army Air Base, Panama on 13 November 1940, where it was almost immediately redesignated as the 99th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), being equipped with Douglas B-18A Bolos to fly antisubmarine patrols.[7]

On 25 August 1941, it received one Boeing B-17B Flying Fortress. Just before the Pearl Harbor Attack, on 3 December, the Squadron was ordered to distant Zandery Field, Dutch Guiana and, to the disappointment of the crews, had to leave their B-17B behind. By now strengthened to a total of six B-18A's, however, the unit shuttled from Zandery to Atkinson Field, British Guiana and was reassigned to the Trinidad Base Command.

The Squadron performed antisubmarine patrols until 31 October 1942, when it was detached from Sixth Air Force and reassigned to Orlando, Florida, where it became part of the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics in central and northern Florida. At the AAFSAT, the squadron trained units with a mixture of B-25 Mitchells, B¬26 Marauders and B-17 Flying Fortresses in combat tactics.[7]

B-29 Superfortress era[]

The squadron moved to Florida in October 1942 without personnel or equipment where it was reconstituted and trained other bombardment units on formation flying and high altitude precision bombing in B-17 Flying Fortresses as part of the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics. At various airfields in central and Northern Florida, the squadron trained cadres for 44 bomb groups in organization and operations, performed bombing pattern tests, experimented with 3-plane formations to attack moving ships, and performed over a hundred equipment tests.

On 3 March 1944, the squadron was reassigned on paper at Dalhart Army Air Field, Texas as part of the 313th Bombardment Wing, to organize and train for B-29 operations in the Western Pacific. The 9th helped to develop operational bombardment tactics and tested special devices and equipment during this time.

In 1944 the unit was re-manned and the 99th moved to Dalhart Army Air Field, Texas where it began training on the new B-29 Superfortress as part of the 313th Bombardment Wing, to organize and train for B-29 operations in the Western Pacific. The 99th helped to develop operational bombardment tactics and tested special devices and equipment during this time. It then moved to McCook Army Airfield, Nebraska in May 1944 where it trained in earnest for its own combat deployment. After six months in the new B-29, the 99th transferred to North Field, Tinian, in the Mariana Islands, just east of the Philippines. Arriving at Tinian on 28 December 1944, the 99th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) flew its first bombing raids on 27, 29 and 31 January 1945, against Japanese installations in the northern Marianas. On 25 February the 99th joined an all-out Allied effort against Tokyo's port and industrial areas.

For the remaining months of the war, squadron B-29s repeatedly struck Japanese aircraft factories, chemical plants, naval bases and airdromes. It also participated in night, low-level incendiary bombing attacks on urban areas. During these months the 99th won two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first came for 15–16 April 1945 bombing raids on Kawasaki, Japan's industrial center, which furnished components for Tokyo and Yokohama's heavy industry. The squadron won the second award in mine-laying operations beginning in mid May, 1944 in the Shimonoseki Straits, which controlled access to the Inland Seas. This operation crippled Japan's efforts to ship food, raw materials, war supplies, troops, and combat equipment to and from the homeland. The 99th Bomb Squadron continued its attacks on Japan until flying its last mission, a low-level night incendiary attack on Kumagaya on 14 August 1945.[4]

Strategic Air Command[]

The Air Force established the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Fairfield-Suisun (later Travis) AFB, California on 25 April 1949 and activated it on 1 May as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) unit. 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron flew B/RB-17s and, later, B/RB-29s. RB-29s and a few RB-36s.[4]

On 1 April 1950, the Air Force redesignated the wing as the 9th Bombardment Wing and the 99th as a bombardment squadron. The 99th continued to fly B-29s at Fairfield-Suisun AFB until 1 May 1953, when SAC transferred the wing and its squadrons to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. By June 1955, the 99th Bombardment Squadron had replaced its B-29s with new B-47 Stratojets. In November 1955 the 99th and other wing squadrons demonstrated the Strategic Air Command's ability to strike anywhere in the world making several deployments to England and Guam.[4]

Squadron B-47s flew nonstop from the 8,300 miles from Mountain Home AFB to New Zealand. The 99th flew nuclear deterrent missions for ten years. In November 1965, SAC agreed to transfer Mountain Home AFB to the Tactical Air Command. The 99th's B-47s transferred to other units and by 1 February 1966 all squadron aircraft were gone. In 1966, the 99th again became a reconnaissance squadron and moved to California conducting testing of SR-71 aircraft through 1967. The 99th flew global strategic reconnaissance until 1971 when the squadron inactivated.[4]

In November 1972, the 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron activated at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand where it flew reconnaissance missions over Southeast Asia.[5] The squadron relocated at Beale Air Force Base in 1976 and began flying U-2 missions.

Modern era[]

Operational missions include extensive reconnaissance efforts during Operations Urgent Fury, Just Cause, Desert Shield, Desert Storm and operation Iraqi Freedom as well as humanitarian efforts covering wildfire and earthquake damage in California and Midwestern United States floods. 99 RS personnel are currently temporarily assigned to four overseas detachments.[4]

Operations and Decorations[]

  • Combat Operations: Combat as corps observation unit with French Eighth Army and American V Army Corps, 22-23 Jun, Sep-Nov 1918; school squadron with V Army Corps Infantry Liaison School, Jul-Sep 1918, during which time one flight of unit, operating in Vosges region of Alsace and Lorraine, participated in combat with French XXXIII Corps and American 5 Division, Jul-Aug 1918. Antisubmarine patrols, and reconnaissance of Vichy French fleet at Martinique, Dec 1941-Oct 1942. Combat in Western Pacific, Jan-Aug 1945. Global strategic reconnaissance, 1967–1971 and 1972–present, including Southeast Asia, Nov 1972-Jun 1973; Grenada, 1983; Panama, 1989; and Southwest Asia, 1990-1991. Supported global war on terrorism, 2001-.
  • Campaigns: World War I: Lorraine; Alsace; St Mihiel; Meuse-Argonne. World War II: Antisubmarine, American Theater; Air Offensive, Japan; Eastern Mandates; Western Pacific. Vietnam: Vietnam Ceasefire. Southwest Asia: Defense of Saudi Arabia; Liberation and Defense of Kuwait.
  • Decorations: Distinguished Unit Citations: Kawasaki, Japan, 15-16 Apr 1945; Japan, 13–28 May 1945. Presidential Unit Citation: 31 Mar-31 Dec 1968. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards With "V" Device: 1 Nov 1972-28 Jan 1973; 1 Nov 1972-30 Jun 1973. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards: 1 Jan 1957-31 Jan 1958; 1 Jul 1967-30 Jun 1968; 1 Jul 1970-1 Apr 1971; 1 Jul 1975-30 Jun 1976; 30 Jun 1976-30 Jun 1977; 1 Jul 1981-30 Jun 1982; 1 Jul 1983-30 Jun 1984; 1 Jul 1985-30 Jun 1986; 1 Jul 1986-30 Jun 1987; 1 Jul 1989-30 Jun 1990; 1 Sep 1991-30 Jun 1993; 1 Jul 1993-30 Jun 1994; 1 Jul 1994-30 Jun 1995; 1 Jun 1996-31 May 1998; 1 Jun 1998-31 May 2000; 1 Jun 2002-31 May 2004. Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm: 1 Nov 1972-28 Jan 1973.


  • Organized as 99th Aero Squadron on 21 August 1917
Re-designated as 99th Aero Squadron (Corps Observation) on 11 March 1918
Re-designated as 99th Aero Squadron on 24 May 1919
Demobilized on 9 June 1919
Re-constituted and organized as 99th Corps Observation Squadron on 2 July 1919
Re-designated: 99th Squadron (Observation) on 14 March 1921
Re-designated: 99th Observation Squadron on 25 Jan 1923
Inactivated on 31 Jul 1927
  • Activated on 9 Nov 1928
Re-designated: 99th Bombardment Squadron on 1 Mar 1935
Re-designated: 99th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 6 Dec 1939
Re-designated: 99th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 Nov 1940
Re-designated: 99th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 28 Mar 1944
Inactivated on 20 Oct 1948
  • Re-designated 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Photographic, and activated, on 1 May 1949
Re-designated: 99th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, on 1 Apr 1950
Re-designated: 99th Bombardment Squadron, Medium, on 2 Oct 1950
Re-designated: 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron on 25 Jun 1966
Inactivated on 1 Apr 1971
  • Activated on 1 Nov 1972
Re-designated: 99th Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 Sep 1991.



  • Post Headquarters, Kelly Field, 21 August 1917
  • Aviation Concentration Center, 3 November 1917
  • 2d Aviation Instruction Center, 12 December 1917
  • First Army Observation Group, 11 March 1918
Attached to 3d Artillery Observation School, c. 1 Apr-31 May 1918
  • V Corps Observation Group, 1 July 1918
  • Air Service Headquarters, AEF, 13 Dec 1918
  • 1st Air Depot, AEF, 19 February 1919
  • Advanced Section Services of Supply, 5 March 1919
  • Post Headquarters, Mitchell Field, 24 May 1919
  • Eastern Department, 25 May-9 Jun 1919; 2 July 1919
  • III Corps Area, 20 August 1920
  • District of Washington, c. Jan 1922
  • 8th Division, Air Service, 24 May 1923

Attached 9 Nov 1928
Assigned 15 Feb 1929-20 Oct 1948
Attached to 9th Bombardment Wing, 10 Feb 1951-15 Jun 1952
Attached to Air Division Provisional, 17th, 1 Nov 1972-1 Jan 1975


Flight operated from Corcieux Aerodrome, 19-24 Jul 1918
Flight operated from Dogneville Aerodrome, 24 Jul-26 Aug 1918
Flights operated from Prauthoy Aerodrome, Bourbonne-les-Bains Aerodrome, and Montigney-le-Roi Aerodrome, France, until c. 1 Feb 1919
  • Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome, France, 19 Feb 1919
  • Sadirac, France, 5 Mar-8 May 1919
  • Mitchel Field, New York, 24 May 1919
  • Hazelhurst Field, New York, 25 May-9 Jun 1919
  • Mitchel Field, New York, 2 Jul 1919
  • Camp Alfred Vail, New Jersey, Jul 1919
  • Bolling Field, DC, 17 Aug 1919
  • Kelly Field, Texas (1927)
  • Mitchel Field, New York (1928–1940)
  • Río Hato, Panama (1940–1941)



See also[]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  2. Series "E", Volume 9, History of the 97th-102d Aero Squadrons. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  3. Maurer, Maurer, ed (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 99 RS Fact Sheet
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 AFHRA 99 RS Page[dead link]
  6. 6.0 6.1 Browne, G. Waldo (1921), The American Army in the World War, a divisional record of the American Expeditionary Forces In Europe Overseas Book Company, Manchester, New Hampshire
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Conaway, William. "99th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)". VI Bomber Command In Defense Of The Panama Canal 1941 - 45. 


External links[]

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