9th Special Operations Squadron [9th SOS]
The 9th SOS was originally designated the 39th Bombardment Squadron and was activated April 7, 1944. The squadron began training operations at Grand Island Army Air Field, Neb., then moved to Tinian Island, an island of the Marianas near Guam in December 1944. From this location, the 39th BS participated in bombing raids on Tokyo and assisted with the mining of Japan and Korea. After World War II, in January 1946, the squadron moved to Clark Field, Philippine Islands.
In June 1947 the squadron moved to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, but remained non-operational until November 19, 1948, when it was deactivated. Reactivated January 2, 1951, at Walker Air Force Base, N.M., the squadron began training with B-29s, then later received B-36s. In December 1957, the first B-52 arrived in preparation for transitioning aircraft. The B-52s and aircrews stood alert from November 1958 through May 1959, then the 39th Bombardment Squadron changed from an operational mission to training B-52 aircrews for Strategic Air Command. The squadron deactivated Sept. 15, 1963. The 9th Air Commando Squadron, activated and organized in January 1967, was renamed in 1968 to the 9th Special Operations Squadron. The squadron flew out of various locations in Vietnam including Nha Trang, Pleiku Airport, DaNang and Bien Hoa.
Psychological operations was the primary mission for the squadron in Southeast Asia. Squadron aircraft (only 0-2Bs at first, C-47s added later) accomplished leaflet drops and speaker broadcasts during campaigns such as the Tet Counter-offensive and Commando Hunt V, VI and VII. The 9th SOS was deactivated in Vietnam in February 1972. When the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (a combined MH-60G and HC-130P/N squadron) was split March 1, 1988, its HC-130P/N Hercules aircraft became the core of the reactivated 9th SOS (Special Operations HC-130P/N Hercules aircraft were redesignated MC-130P Combat Shadow in February 1996). The 9th SOS proved itself indispensable in December 1989 during Operation Just Cause in Panama. During that operation, aerial refuelings from MC-130Ps enabled the 1st SOW (later the 16th SOW) MH-53J and MH-60G helicopters to fly more than 1,200 flying hours during more than 400 missions.
In August 1990, the 9th SOS deployed to Saudi Arabia, supporting Operation Desert Shield. The unit prepared for war by developing tactics and performing several mission rehearsals. It flew many air refueling and psychological leaflet drop missions during Operation Desert Storm. The unit remained through the Southwest Asia Cease-Fire Campaign and did not depart Saudi Arabia until February 1993. The 9th SOS also maintained a continuous overseas deployment to Turkey from 1993 to 1996, supporting Operation Provide Comfort, the protection of Kurdish people in northern Iraq. In 1997, the 9th SOS became the only unit in Air Force Special Operations Command history to be simultaneously deployed to both Operation Northern Watch, in Turkey, and Operation Southern Watch, in Saudi Arabia, providing combat search and rescue coverage for allied nations enforcing the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.
The squadron flies MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft. The mission of the 9th SOS is the clandestine penetration of enemy territory using low-level formation procedures to provide aerial refueling of special operations helicopters and the insertion, extraction and re-supply of special operations forces by low or high altitude airdrop or airland operations. The 9th SOS specializes in the use of night vision goggles and close interval formation tactics to refuel large helicopter formations. The 9th SOS is the squadron of choice for any large refueling requirement.
The 9th SOS aircraft are modified with the Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installment. This modification allows the MC-130P to refuel from KC-135 or KC-10 aircraft and then provide a large helicopter aerial refueling capability with minimum aircraft. The range of these MC-130Ps is only limited by crew duty time.
Special operations forces improvements were made on AFSOC's fleet of MC-130Ps with modifications scheduled to be completed in fiscal 1999 and all MC-130Ps to feature improved navigation, communications, threat detection and countermeasures systems. Eight of the nine MC-130P Combat Shadows assigned to the 9th SOS are completely upgraded with a fully integrated inertial navigation and global positioning system and night vision goggle compatible interior and exterior lighting. They also have a forward looking infrared sensor, radar and missile warning receivers, chaff and flare dispensers, night vision goggle compatible heads-up display and satellite and data-burst communications. To enhance the probability of mission success and survivability near populated areas, employment tactics incorporate no external lighting and no communications to avoid radar and weapons detection.
In late 1999, the 5th SOS belonging to 919th SOW became an associate unit with the active force's 9th SOS. Together the 5th and 9th will form an associate unit to fly and maintain 10 Combat Shadow aircraft owned by the Air Force.
Under the associate unit concept, an active-duty unit owns the aircraft and Reserve crews and maintainers augment the missions. The move is part of an overall plan for Air Force Special Operations Command to combine Reserve and active-duty components onto common airframes. These changes result from mission changes, adjustments for efficiency, congressional directives and implementation of the expeditionary aerospace force concept.