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Reconnaissance Dominance for 108 years and counting

Maj. Kristopher Duckett, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, sits in the cockpit of a U-2 after flying in pattern Aug. 11, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base, California.

Maj. Kristopher Duckett, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, sits in the cockpit of a U-2 after flying in pattern Aug. 11, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Duckett piloted one of three U-2s in the were built in the sixties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexis Pentzer)

The Curtiss Jenny was the first American airplane to be used in war.

The Curtiss Jenny was the first American airplane to be used in war. (U.S. Air Force illustration Fiona Kilfoyle)

The B-29 Superfortress was used to carry out the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

The B-29 Superfortress was used to carry out the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Fiona Kilfoyle)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Americans have been flying for 113 years. Since then, the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron (RS), at Beale Air Force Base, has been working to continue the military mission. John Huggins,  1st RS U-2 instructor pilot, shares about the history of the 1st RS.

“It was the Wright brothers that started things out, but really, it was the 1st RS that was doing everything down in southern New Mexico during their punitive expedition, flying the first combat missions in an airplane,” Huggins said.  That led to a lot of the breakthrough technologies that happened.”

Starting in 1913, during World War I, the U.S. Army Air Corps used hot air balloons for reconnaissance, photography, and bomb dropping. These missions formed the 1st Aero Squadron. During WW1, it was the 1st RS flying the first real combat missions. They learned what did and did not work when it came to aircraft warfare and figured out how to improve things as the war went on. The 1st RS drove many early technological developments in aircraft, which then carried over to what we now know of the Air Force.

The U.S. military made rapid improvements on aircraft used during WW1 and WW2. From 1913 to 1945, the U.S. went from rickety box kite airplanes to the B-29 and dropping the atomic bomb. Twelve years later, during the Cold War, the U-2 , a high altitude reconnaissance airplane, was created.

As the only base in the U.S. with the U-2, the 1st RS still has three of the original 12 U-2s that have survived from the 60s, which are still operable.

“We are proud of the aircraft because it's an aircraft that carries more payload, has more electrical power, and local power is actually really important to drive all the sensors on the aircraft,” Huggins said. “We can carry more payload than the Global Hawk and that's an aircraft that came by 40 years after the U-2.”

Paying homage to the pride the Air Force takes in their work and the determination to continue to innovate things for the bigger picture of the Air Force. The past 108 years of 1st RS aviation history have been full of major milestones and the 1st RS has been there every step of the way.