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3d Special Operations Squadron
3rd Special Operations Squadron.png
3d Special Operations Squadron emblem
Active 19??-Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Air Force Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Cannon AFB, New Mexico

Vietnam War 3d ACS emblem

SAC 3d SRS emblem

The 3d Special Operations Squadron (3 SOS) flies MQ-1 Predator Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and is currently located at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. The 3d SOS is under the command of the Air Force Special Operations Command.


Currently operates Predators engaged in Operation New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.


Organized in France in April 1918, the Photographic Section No. 1 processed aerial photographs taken by flying units working with the I Army Corps (American) and French XXXVIII Army Corps, 5 April–November 1918. The 1 Photographic Section, from September 1919 until becoming the 3 Observation Squadron on 1 June 1937, processed aerial photography of associated observation squadrons in Texas. At Langley Field, VA, the squadron engaged in aerial observation work with the Coast Artillery School until April 1942. It supported ground forces on maneuvers during 1942, and served as a training and demonstration unit January 1943 – February 1944. The squadron was not manned or equipped, 1 Mar-2 July 1944. Activated again in May 1952 under Strategic Air Command as part of its global reconnaissance mission. The squadron did not receive its first aircraft until 1 July 1953, when it immediately began familiarization training, followed by in-flight refueling training in February 1954. It received RB-47E aircraft in March 1954, and conducted its first long-range mission (6 planes to Alaska for 10 days) in May 1954. The squadron deployed at RAF Upper Heyford, England, 14 September–3 November 1954. Some of these flights were mounted from Thule in Greenland and probed deep into the heart of the Soviet Union, taking a photographic and radar recording of the route attacking SAC bombers would follow to reach their targets. Flights which involved penetrating mainland Russia were termed SENSINT (Sensitive Intelligence) missions. One RB-47 even managed to fly 450 miles inland and photograph the city of Igarka in Siberia. It photographed numerous Air Force bases and American cities, 1954–1958, and participated regularly in SAC exercises. Missions flown on a reduced scale after February 1958 when events showed the vulnerability of the RB-47 to Soviet air defenses and the development of the U-2 aircraft. Became non-operational, 15 April–l July 1958 when it inactivated.

As the 3d Air Commando Squadron in South Vietnam, it absorbed resources of the 14 Air Commando Squadron. It flew combat missions in AC-47D gunships in close air support of ground forces, providing flare illumination and gunfire in support of strategic hamlets, out¬posts, and friendly forces under night attack. From 16 February–1 May 1969, all squadron aircraft were maintained on ground alert when not flying, due to the TET (New Year) offensive. It began transferring its gunships to the Vietnamese Air Force in June 1969 and flew its last mission on 7 August 1969. The 3 Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron although having a "tactical" designation, was not equipped with aircraft. Rather, it operated Camp O'Donnell, Philippines, the Pacific Air Forces Electronic Warfare Range, the Crowe Valley Aerial Gunnery Range, and associated facilities. It provided realistic conventional, tactical, and electronic warfare training in a simulated com¬bat environment during COPE THUNDER exercises. These exercises provided combat training for fighter aircrews of not only the US Air Force, but also fighter crews of the US Marine Corps, US Navy, and allied air forces in the western Pacific area. Following the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in June 1991, personnel were evacuated, and the squadron remained unmanned until its inactivation. Provided remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) support to a multitude of ground forces, 2005 – present.


  • Organized as Photographic Section No. 1 on 4 April 1918
Demobilized on 3 July 1919
  • Reconstituted, and consolidated (1924), with 1st Photographic Section which was authorized on 15 August 1919
Organized on 27 September 1919
Redesignated: 3d Observation Squadron on 1 June 1937
Redesignated: 3d Observation Squadron (Medium) on 13 January 1942
Redesignated: 3d Observation Squadron on 4 July 1942
Redesignated: 3d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 11 August 1943
Disbanded on 2 July 1944
  • Reconstituted, and redesignated 3d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Medium, on 9 May 1952
Activated on 28 May 1952
Inactivated on 1 July 1958
  • Consolidated (19 September 1985) with: 3d Special Operations Squadron
Constituted 3d Air Commando Squadron, and activated, on 5 April 1968
Organized on 1 May 1968
Redesignated 3d Special Operations Squadron on 1 August 1968
Inactivated on 15 September 1969
  • Consolidated (19 September 1985) with: 3d Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron
Constituted 3d Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron on 13 May 1976
Activated on 15 May 1976
Consolidated squadron retained designation: 3d Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron
Inactivated on 30 September 1991
  • Redesignated 3d Special Operations Squadron on 20 October 2005
Activated on 28 October 2005


In association with 12th Observation Squadron, affiliated with 1 Cavalry Division, June 1922 – June 1926, and with 2 Division, June 1926-c. October 1931
  • 3d Attack Group, 8 May 1929
  • 12th Observation Group, attached 1 October 1930, assigned 31 October 1931, attached 1 March 1935
  • Eighth Corps Area, 1 June 1937
  • Third Corps Area, 20 June 1937 attached to Coast Artillery School
  • Coast Artillery School, c. 1939
  • I Air Support Command, 1 September 1941 (attached to Coast Artillery School to 5 April 1942)
  • 73d Observation Group, 12 March 1942
  • Second Air Force, 12 August 1942
Attached to II Ground Air [later, II Air] Support Command to 23 September 1942
  • IV Ground Air (later, IV Air) Support Command, 7 September 1942
  • Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics, 21 January 1943
  • Air Support Department, AAF School of Applied Tactics (later, Tactical Air Force, AAF Tactical Center), 18 February 1943
Attached to 432 Observation (later, 432 Reconnaissance; 432 Tactical Reconnaissance) Group, 27 Mar-1 November 1943


  • Ourches, France, 4 April 1918
Detachment at Flin, France, 15–28 June 1918
  • Saints, France, 29 June 1918
Detachment at Ourches, France, until c. mid-July 1918
  • Francheville, France, 9 July 1918
  • Moras Ferme (near La Ferte-sous Jouarre), France, c. 25 July 1918
  • Lizy-sur-Ourcq, France, c. 4 August 1918
  • Coincy, France, c. 10 August 1918
  • Chailly-en-Brie, France, 13 August 1918
  • Toul, France, 24 August 1918
  • Remicourt, France, 19 September 1918
  • Julvecourt, France, 3 November 1918
  • Vavincourt, France, c. 28 November 1918
  • Colombey-les-Belles, France, c. 5 May 1919
  • Port of embarkation, France, May–June 1919



PRO PATRIA PRO LIBERIS – translated – For Country For Freedom

Notable members


  1. Wilson, Art (2008). Runways in the Sand. Blythe, California: Art Wilson. pp. 128. ISBN 978-0-615-21889-2. OCLC 316309702.  Library of Congress Classification D769.85.C21 B598 2008

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