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26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing patch
Active 1942–1991
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Bryce Poe II

The 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with United States Air Forces in Europe at Zweibrücken Air Base, Germany, where it was inactivated on 31 July 1991.

The wing was first established during World War II as the 5th Photographic Group a II photographic reconnaissance organization with Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.

In 1952 the 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was established operated under the direction of Strategic Air Command from and operated from Lockbourne AFB, Ohio until 1958.

The two units were consolidated in 1965 as the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and served for the next twenty-six years with United States Air Forces Europe


5th Photographic Group

Emblem of the 5th Photographic Group

F-4B photo reconnaissance aircraft

The 5th Photographic Group was constituted on 14 July 1942 and activated on 23 July at Colorado Springs AAF, Colorado. Until 1 September, 5th Photographic Group consisted only of a headquarters, but on 2 September four photographic reconnaissance (The 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th) were assigned. While at Colorado Springs, the pilots trained to fly high speed, unarmed F-4 (P-38 Lightning) photo aircraft. The F-4 was a modified P-38 Lightning a twin-engine, long-range fighter equipped with cameras to accomplish aerial reconnaissance.

In May 1943, the 21st, 22d and 24th squadrons were reassigned to other reconnaissance groups leaving only one squadron, the 23rd, to deploy overseas with the 5th, being reassigned to Twelfth Air Force. The pilots departed Colorado Springs first in early June 1943. The rest of the group's personnel left on 8 August for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where they stayed a week before boarding ships for North Africa. On 4 September 1943, the 5th Photo Group arrived at Bizerte, Tunisia. Upon its arrival, the 5th was assigned to the Northwest African Photographic Wing.

When the group arrived at its headquarters at La Marsa, Tunisia, on 8 September, the allies were just beginning the campaign against Italy. Since the pilots arrived early and they began flying missions almost immediately, primarily using F-5s to get pictures required for the aerial war against the Axis powers. The group not only flew the F-5s, but also the F-7, F-9, and F-10. The F-7 was a modified Consolidated B-24J, while the F-9 was a modified Boeing B-17F and the F-10 was a modified North American B-25D. These aircraft were actually modified bombers that were lightly armed, and equipped with cameras and larger fuel tanks that allowed them to reach out beyond the range of the P-38s. These aircraft often brought up the rear on the bombing missions over Italy and the Balkans photographing the initial bomb damage to the targets.

Initially, the 5th flew its missions to Italy, Corsica and Sardinia, but as the fighting progressed towards the heart of the European continent, the operations area expanded. On 30 October 1943, the 5th flew its first mission to Germany, photographing targets in Munich, Augsburg, Regensburg and Stuttgart. In October 1943, allied forces successfully landed troops in southern Italy. As the war moved closer to the heart of the Axis, so did the 5th. On 22 November 1943, the 5th Group was assigned to the 90th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing, which was part of the Fifteenth Air Force stationed in southern Italy. On 8 December 1943, after the allies captured the airfields in the vicinity of Foggia, the group moved to San Severo, Italy, near Foggia.

On 1 October 1944, the 5th Group was reassigned from the 90th Wing directly to Fifteenth Air Force. Shortly thereafter, on 11 October, The group moved from San Severo to Bari, Italy where 15th AF had its headquarters. On 15 November 1944, the size of the 5th increased as the 32nd gained full strength, and with the assignment of the 37th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, which had just arrived in Italy. With the 37th came another reconnaissance aircraft modified from another bomber aircraft, the F-3, a reconnaissance version of the Douglas A-20 attack aircraft.

Beginning in November 1944, the 5th Photo group flew widely over the European Theatre of Operations. The 5th photographed many strategic targets in Germany including: oil refineries, aircraft factories, and communication facilities. Their destruction helped reduce the strength of the Luftwaffe. In the mountain campaign of Northern Italy, the 5th gathered intelligence which helped allied forces break the hold of the German Army in Italy. In Eastern Europe, the 5th's reconnaissance reports resisted partisan and other Allied forces to push the Germans out of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans.

In August 1945, the group was notified that it was scheduled for shipment to the United States during September, but the departure was delayed until 9 October, when the men sailed from Naples aboard the SS Noah Webster. On 26 October 1945, the ship carrying the men of the 5th arrived at New York Harbor. Two days later, the group was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Two years later, on 6 March 1947, the non-operational and unmanned 5th was disbanded.

26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

RB-47H jet reconnaissance aircraft

Emblem of the 26th SRW

The 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Medium (26th SRW) was established at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio on 9 May 1952 and activated on 28 May 1952.

The 26th SRW's mission was to gather intelligence on a global scale, for the strategic objective of the US as part of the strategic reconnaissance force of Strategic Air Command (SAC). Assigned to the 801st Air Division, the 26th SRW flew day and night strategic reconnaissance missions. Also developed the capabilities of the Boeing YRB-47 "Stratojet". With the exception of the 26th Air refueling squadron, Medium, the wing and its squadrons were manned with only minimal strength.

In 1953, the flying squadrons began receiving additional personnel. The flying squadrons were the 3rd, 4th and 10th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons, Medium. In July 1953, the wing began transitional training in YRB-47s. In March of that same year, the RB-47Es began to replace the YRB models. By the end of December 1954, the wing's last two YRB-47s were sent to Dobbins AFB, Georgia, for modification. In February 1955, these two aircraft were returned to the wing as RB-47B-1s. By the following year, the wing was only flying RB-47Es.

The 26 SRW's other aircraft, the Boeing KC-97Fs and later KC-97Gs were flown by the 26th and 321st Air Refueling Squadrons, Medium. These units were assigned to the wing in May 1952 and April 1955, and remained as part of the wing until September 1956 and April 1958, respectively.

The wing participated in a variety of SAC directed exercises and operations between 1953 and 1958. These included numerous simulated combat missions and deployments, ranging from a few days to a few months. The exercises took the wing's reconnaissance and tanker aircraft to such bases as Eielson AFB, Alaska; Thule AFB, Greenland; Royal Air Force stations at Upper Heyford and Fairford, United Kingdom; Sidi Slimane AB in Morocco; Goose Bay AB, Labrador; and Lajes Field in the Azores.

In December 1957, the wing learned that it was to be inactivated the following summer. On 15 April 1958, the 321st Air Refueling Squadron was reassigned to the 301st Bombardment Wing, as were the remainder of the wing's aircrews. The wing's strength was slowly reduced by transferring personnel to other units.

On 1 July 1958, the 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was inactivated.

26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

Toul-Rosières Air Base

McDonnell RF-4C-22-MC Phantom Serial 64-1060 22d TRS. This was the first RF-4C to arrive at Toul, July 1965

On 19 April 1965, the 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was consolidated with the earlier 5th Reconnaissance Group, and was redesignated the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (26th TRW). On 1 July 1965 the 26th TRW was activated at Toul-Rosières Air Base, France. The 26th TRW was designated to be equipped with the new RF-4C "Phantom".

The squadrons initially assigned to the 26th were the 19th TRS, flying RB-66's acquired from the deployed 10th TRW RAF Alconbury deployed squadrons already at Toul and the 32 TRS, flying RF-101C "Voodos", which were transferred from the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Laon Air Base.

On 1 October 1965, the 19th TRS and its RB-66s were reassigned to the new 25th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, which was being established at Chambley-Bussieres Air Base, France. The RF-4C's started arriving on 3 October 1965, phasing out the RF-101s. On 1 January 1966, the 38th TRS was reassigned from the 66th TRW and was equipped with the RF-4Cs.

On 7 March 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. The United States was informed that it must remove its military forces from France by 1 April 1967.

Ramstein Air Base

McDonnell RF-4C Phantoms of the 38th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 26th TRW. Serials 65-0891, 65–0826 and 66-0418. These aircraft were retired to AMARC in the early 1990s.

As a result, the 26 Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, and its two squadrons, the 38th and 32d, were relocated to Ramstein Air Base, West Germany on 5 October 1966. The 22d TRS was reassigned to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho where it became a dual-based squadron, deploying frequently to Ramstein. The 32d TFS was transferred to RAF Alconbury England where the 10th TRW was being re-equipped with the RF-4C.

Assigned squadrons of the 26th TRW at Ramstein were:

  • 38th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-4C, Tail Code: RR)
  • 526th Fighter Interceptor/Tactical Fighter (F-102/F-4E (1968–1973) Tail Code: RS)
  • 7th Special Operation (C-130, C-47, UH-1)

While at Ramstein the 26th TRW acquired a number of other units with different flying missions. Along with the RF-4Cs of the 38th TRS, it flew a mixture of aircraft, including T-29s, T-33s, T-39s, C-54s, O-2s, H-19s, and UH-1s.

One function gained by the 26 TRW, almost immediately after arriving at Ramstein, was the maintenance and flying of the HQ USAFE liaison aircraft. In addition, the Wing was responsible for flying members of the HQ USAFE staff to Air Force and NATO bases throughout Europe.

The 526th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), flying F-102 aircraft, was assigned to the wing in November 1968, thus adding an air defense role to the mission of the wing. With the phaseout of the F-102 from Europe, the 526 FIS was redesignated the 526th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) and begun converting to the F-4E fighter aircraft.

In the spring of 1972, the 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) was assigned flying C-130Es, C-47As, and UH-1Ns. Because of the special operations mission of the 7 SOS, it reported directly to HQ USAFE for operational control.

Zweibrücken Air Base

17th TRS McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-37-MC Phantom 68-0568 in mid-1970s Southeast Asia camouflage motif.

38th TRS McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-37-MC Phantom 68-0553 in late 1980s early 1990s "Air Superiority Gray" camouflage motif.

As part of operation "Creek Action", a command-wide effort to realign functions and streamline operations, HQ USAFE transferred the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing from Ramstein Air Base to Zweibrücken Air Base, and the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing from Zweibrücken to Ramstein on 31 January 1973. Operational squadrons of the 26th TRW were:

  • 7th Special Operations (C-130, UH-1)
  • 17th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-4C) (Red tail fin stripe)
  • 38th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-4C) (Yellow tail fin stripe)

Note: 7th SOS reported directly to HQ USAFE. 17th & 38th RF-4Cs carried tail code "ZR".

For nearly five years the wing remained stable at Zweibrücken. Then on 1 October 1978, the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated with a single F-4D aircraft and assigned to the 26 TRW. USAFE planned on equipping the squadron with F-4Es, however, inadequate munitions storage compelled the command to reverse its decision and consequently reassigned the 417th TFS without personnel or equipment to the 86th TFW at Ramstein AB on 1 November 1978, being placed in not operational status.

Later that month, on 20 November, the 17 TRS was inactivated due to budgetary cutbacks leaving the 38 TRS as the wing's only in-place operational squadron. High-hour RF-4C aircraft were sent to AMARC, others were reassigned to the 38th TRS or to existing Bergstrom, Shaw, RAF Alconbury or Air National Guard squadrons.

On 10 August 1987, the 26 TRW became the only tactical reconnaissance wing in USAFE, when the 10 TRW at RAF Alconbury was redesignated the 10th Tactical Fighter Wing and assigned to fly A-10 attack aircraft. This left NATO and US Forces in Europe the services of just one US tactical reconnaissance unit and one squadron of RF-4Cs.

The wing continued to conduct reconnaissance operations in support of NATO, USAFE, and the US Army in Europe (USAREUR). The wing also engaged in operational employment and development of advanced reconnaissance systems to further enhance the military posture of NATO in Europe.

With the end of the Cold War in 1990, 26th TRW was gradually phased down. In addition, the 1960s-era RF-4C Phantoms were increasingly costing more and more to maintain. Tactical reconnaissance was being handled more and more by other means, and the need for the 26th TRW was becoming less and less critical to USAFE planners. As a result, the RF-4Cs of the 38th TRS were sent to AMARC on 1 April 1991 and the squadron was inactivated.

The 26th TRW was inactivated on 31 July 1991.


5th Reconnaissance Group

  • Established as 5th Photographic Group on 14 July 1942
Activated on 23 July 1942
Redesignated 5th Photographic Reconnaissance and Mapping Group on 15 May 1943
Redesignated 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Group on 15 August 1943
Redesignated 5th Photographic Group, Reconnaissance on 13 November 1943
Redesignated 5th Reconnaissance Group on 4 May 1945
Inactivated on 28 October 1945
Disbanded on 6 March 1947
  • Reconstituted and consolidated with 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on 19 April 1965

26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

  • Constituted as 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium on 9 May 1952
Activated on 28 May 1952
Inactivated on 1 July 1958
  • Consolidated with 5th Reconnaissance Group and redesignated 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing on 19 April 1965
Activated on 1 July 1965
Inactivated on 31 July 1991
  • Redesignated 26th Intelligence Wing
Activated on 1 October 1991
Redesignated 26th Information Operations Wing on 1 August 2000
Inactivated on 5 July 2006
Redesignated 26th Network Warfare Wing and activated on 5 July 2005


Bases assigned



See also


  • McAuliffe, Jerome J: U.S. Air Force in France 1950–1967 (2005), Chapter 16, Toul-Rosieres Air Base.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to present

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