With the history of US Air Force Security Service (1948-1979) and its successor organizations covering such a vast domain - more than a hundred small to large units operating primarily in the hinterlands of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas - Larry Tart subdivided FREEDOM THROUGH VIGILANCE into five comprehensive, standalone volumes (3,100-plus total pages):
Volume I - USAFSS General History, USAFSS COMSEC and Women in USAFSS
Volume II - USAFSS History in Europe and Middle East
Volume III - USAFSS History in Far East and Alaska
Volume IV - USAFSS Airborne SIGINT Recon, Part I
Volume V - USAFSS Airborne SIGINT Recon, Part II.
Volumes I through III are devoted to the command's ground sites, and being too voluminous for a single volume, Air Force Security Service airborne reconnaissance history is addressed in Volumes IV and V. Volume V is organized into Chapters 15-20.
Chapter 15 is devoted to a special group of airborne voice intercept operators - USAFSS/ESC/AFIC/AIA/AFISRA airborne Spanish linguists. This history segment begins in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis that created within USAFSS an overnight need for a new large cadre of Spanish voice intercept operators. Up to that point, the command had no Spanish language intercept requirement and no Spanish voice intercept operators. Security Service had airmen of Hispanic descent who were fluent in Spanish, but they worked in administrative jobs, supply, communications centers, motor pools, mess halls, and even a few served as Russian intercept operators or Morse operators, but none had experience as a Spanish intercept operator. That changed during the summer of 1962 - any airman with the appropriate security clearance who could pass a proficiency test in Spanish became a Spanish linguist manning a voice intercept position at Key West, Florida, or aboard a C-130 ACRP aircraft that began flying missions in the Caribbean from MacDill AFB, Florida, on 2 August 1962. From those humble beginnings was born the Association of Spanish Flyers, a close-knit group that has been a key player in the Air Force airborne ISR operations in Central and South America for the past five decades. This chapter addresses the involvement of the Association of Spanish Flyers in those historic events.
Chapter 16 addresses 6949th Security Squadron (and successor organization) operations at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. USAFSS commenced support to Strategic Air Command's 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Offutt with the activation of Det 1, 6940th Security Wing at Offutt in 1963. Detachment 1, 6940th SW became the 6949th Security Squadron on 1 July 1965 with a primary mission of providing internal support to SAC Burning Pipe RC-135C missions. The unit also had a small cadre of Spanish linguists who transcribed information collected by U-2 missions operating in the Caribbean area. Over the years, as the 55th SRW (currently 55th Wing) acquired new ISR platforms, the mission of the 6949th SS (and follow-on organizations) changed. With the conversion of the RC-135C Big Team ELINT-oriented platforms to RC-135 Rivet Joint ISR aircraft in the early 1970's, the role of the 6949th changed to that of a primary airborne SIGINT collection unit with emphasis on strategic intelligence. Chapter 16 traces the evolution of the Rivet Joint platform to Rivet Joint, Block III (current digital software-controlled system configuration) and the transition of the 6949th's primary strategic mission to its tactical orientation today. In the same vein, the 6949th Security Squadron evolved through several reorganizations and unit name changes to become the 97th Intelligence Squadron on 1 October 1993. Since Desert Shield in 1990, the 6949th ESS/97th IS has supported combat operations in Southwest Asia. Finally, Chapter 16 captures the history of the Project Liberty MC-12 program under which the Air Force rushed into service on a QRC basis a totally new ISR platform. Purchased under the Big Safari program through prime contractor L-3 Communications, Greenville, Texas, the Air Force outfitted a fleet (37-plus) of Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft with an IR sensor and a cryptologic sensor suite. Thirty of the MC-12's (15 for use in Iraq and 15 for Afghanistan) with associated four-man crews were delivered to CENTCOM forces between June 2009 and July 2010.
Chapter 17 documents the history of the 6954th Security Squadron (presently 488th Intelligence Squadron) at RAF Mildenhall, UK. The chapter also documents the predecessor USAFSS airborne units in the UK (operating locations/detachments at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Upper Heyford) that ultimately became the 6954th SS (now 488th Intel Squadron) at Mildenhall. Additionally, the chapter documents the history of USAFSS/ESC females becoming aircrew members during the 1980's.
Chapter 18 addresses the history of the 6990th Security Squadron (currently the 390th Intelligence Squadron) at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Activated on 15 July 1967, the 6990th supported Combat Apple RC-135M operations throughout the Vietnam War, and the 390th IS supports combat operations in Southwest Asia today.
Chapter 19 chronicles the history of the 6994th Security Squadron, Tan Son Nhut, Vietnam, and its subordinate detachments in Vietnam and Thailand during the Vietnam War (1965-1974). The tragic losses of 17 6994th Security Squadron aircrew members (13 in four shoot down incidents, 3 in two EC-47 non-hostile crashes and 1 death due to a Viet Cong ground attack) are documented. The 74-page history of the "Baron 52" shoot down incident that occurred on 5 February 1973 - the last EC-47 loss of the Vietnam War - is perhaps the most detailed accounting of that tragic event that exists today. Chapter 19 also documents the history of the 6994th Electronic Security Squadron that was activated in January 1981 at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Chapter 20 records the history of the 25th Intelligence Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, including the squadron's support to Air Force Special Ops Command during Desert Storm in 1991 and the loss of three aircrew members in non-hostile crashes - MC-130 crash in Puerto Rico (2002), MC-130 crash in Albania (2005) and U-28 crash in Djibouti in 2012. Chapter 20 also provides brief histories of the 169th Intelligence Squadron (UT ANG), Salt Lake City, Utah, and Compass Call EC-130 operations.
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