12th Reconnaissance Squadron


Expertly train, deploy and employ Airmen and assets to deliver globally integrated ISR in support of warfighter needs and national objectives.


The 12th Reconnaissance Squadron originated in World War I as the 12th Aero Squadron and earned accolades from General Bill Mitchell as “the war’s “best American Air Service observation squadron.” The squadron has since proved itself in every major conflict since that time including the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The WWI Aero Squadron helped artillery commanders zero-in on targets, aided friendly infantry units, surveilled and photographed enemy positions, and dropped propaganda leaflets. The squadron earned seven campaign streamers including Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne, and St. Mihiel, the four campaigns represented as black iron crosses on the 9th Reconnaissance Wing emblem.

During the inter-war period prior to World War II, the squadron re-designated as the 12th Observation Squadron and later joined the 67th Observation Group in 1942 for deployment to Europe. The squadron again re-designated in 1943 as the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron (fighter) and helped photograph French coastline in preparation for the Operation OVERLORD (D-Day) assault. The squadron used the Merton Oblique camera and shared a Presidential Unit Citation with the 67th group for the task. In 1944, the squadron was re-assigned to the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Group and supported allied campaigns in Northern France and Germany. By the end of the conflict, squadron pilots had flown 2,732 missions, destroyed 26 enemy aircraft, and lost nine planes to enemy action prior to the squadron’s inactivation in 1946.

During the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the newly designated 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flew photography and visual sighting missions. In its nearly five years in Vietnam, the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flew over 26,000 combat sorties for over 53,000 hours-more than it had flown in World War II and the Korean War combined. During this time, in 1966, the squadron began flying McDonnell RF-4C “Phantoms,” its primary aircraft for the next 26 years through inactivation in 1992 following Operation DESERT STORM.

The current squadron activated in 2001 at Beale AFB, California as the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron, this time as the parent squadron for the RQ-4 “Global Hawk.”  The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, remotely piloted aerial reconnaissance vehicle capable of flight for up to 32 hours.  This long endurance can provide a warfighter with continuous, high resolution, near-real-time imagery. The 12th flew aerial reconnaissance for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM and continues to fly overseas contingency operations as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions supporting combatant commanders worldwide.