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343rd Reconnaissance Squadron [343rd RS]

The mission of the 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron is to provide worldwide reconnaissance for national command authorities, theater CINC's (commander in chiefs), the intelligence community, and war fighters.

In order to accomplish this mission the 343rd RS collects, correlates, combines, and distributes tactical intelligence to the war fighter in near real time. The 343rd gives combat commanders what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Missions are normally tasked by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during peacetime operations and by the commander in the field during wartime. The squadron supports the worldwide missions of the Department of Defense to keep the United States aware of potential adversaries.

The 343rd Reconnaissance Squadron's history began on February 1, 1943 as the 343rd Fighter Squadron. During the Second World War, it flew the P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning fighters, providing escort for heavy bombers of Eighth Air Force in the strategic air campaign against Nazi Germany.

It became the 343rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron in 1947, part of the Strategic Air Command. During the early years of the Cold War, the 343rd flew the RB-29, RB-50, and RB-47 reconnaissance, or "ferret", aircraft. These were variants of bombers outfitted with sophisticated electronic surveillance gear, some of which are on display at the SAC Museum. Their mission was to probe Soviet air defenses--highly dangerous work.

The new RC-135, which the squadron still flies, arrived in 1967. For 15 years, the squadron has continued to fly its peacetime reconnaissance mission. However, in the early 1980's that peace time mission began to change. The rise of terrorist nations, the fall of the Soviet Union and the realization of the tremendous capabilities of the RC-135 brought new missions and new changes to the 343rd.

Since then, the 343rd has played a role in the liberation of Grenada and Panama, the 1986 Libyan raids, the Persian Gulf War, combat air patrols in the no-fly zones over the northern and southern Iraq, and in the Bosnian conflicts.

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