Harman Patil (Editor)

12th Special Operations Squadron

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Active  since 15 January 1941
Role  Special operations
Country  United States
Garrison/HQ  Cannon Air Force Base
12th Special Operations Squadron
Branch  United States Air Force
Part of  27th Special Operations Wing

The 12th Special Operations Squadron is assigned to the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. Its mission is the launch and recovery of Remotely Piloted Aircraft from unprepared locations throughout the world. The squadron was activated in 2015 to replace a detachment that had been performing the same mission since October 2013.


The squadron was previously active at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska as the12th Fighter Squadron, part of the 3d Operations Group. The squadron operated the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle aircraft conducting air superiority missions.

The mission of the 12th is to launch and recover Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) operationally employed by the 2d, 3d and 33d Special Operations Squadrons. To avoid the inherent delay in transmitting commands through satellite communications to RPAs from distant stations, the squadron deploys to locations where it can operate the craft for takeoff and landing using line of sight signals. This minimizes risk during critical flight operations, while permitting mission operations to be performed from more remote secure locations.

World War II

The 12th Special Operations Squadron was first activated at Selfridge Field, Michigan as the 12th Pursuit Squadron, one of the original squadrons of the 50th Pursuit Group. in January 1941 when the United States expanded its military forces on the eve of World War II. After training with Seversky P-35s and Curtiss P-36 Hawks, the squadron moved with its parent 50th Pursuit Group to Key Field, Mississippi in October, where it began to equip with Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. It was located there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 8.

Responding to the critical need for fighters in the Pacific, in February 1942 the squadron deployed to Christmas Island. The 12th flew patrols over the Pacific from Christmas Island between February and October 1942. It began combat operations from Fighter Strip No.2 on Guadalcanal on 19 November 1942, moving to Guadalcanal in February. Operations were frequently split. Although based on Guadalcanal until August 1944, flight operations were conducted from Mono Airfield on Stirling Island. The 12th moved to Mar Drome, Sansapor, Netherlands East Indies that month although starting on 8 November, a portion of the squadron operated from Morotai. The split operation lasted until 10 January 1945, anth three days later the squadron moved to Lingayen Airfield in the Philippines, although the squadron moved to Hill Strip little more than a week later, its rear echelon continued to operate from Lingayen until 24 April 1945, when it leapfrogged forward to become the advanced echelon at Moret Field on 24 April, being joined by the rest of the squadron on 4 May. Combat operations continued until 14 August 1945 from Moret (and from Puerto Princesa Airfield between 26 April and 11 May 1945).

Following the surrender of Japan, the squadron remained in the Philippines.

Korean War

When the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel to invade South Korea in June 1950, Far East Air Forces looked to its resources in the Philippines to reinforce its forces in Korea and the squadron was moved from the Philippines to Taegu Air Base in late July. However, as United Nations forces withdrew into the Pusan Perimeter, the squadron was forced to move to Ashiya Air Base, Japan eleven days after arriving in the theater of war, after flying only a handful of missions from Taegu with North American P-51 Mustangs. The following month it returned to Korea and Pusan East (K-9) Air Base.

After the Inchon Landings, United Nations forces rapidly moved north and the squadron was able to establish a detachment at Pyongyang East Air Base on 5 November 1950, with the entire squadron arriving just over two weeks later. However, Chinese intervention in Korea forced the squadron to withdraw in December, first to Suwon Air Base, then to Chinhae Air Base (although a detachment of the squadron continued to operate from Suwon until 4 January 1951). Part of the squadron resumed Suwon operations again on 24 March 1951, while another part flew out of Pusan West Air Base Suwon operations lasted until 4 May 1951, while those in Pusan lasted only until 23 April.

Although still stationed at Chinhae, The squadron operated from Seoul Air Base, closer to the front lines, from 8 May to 9 August 1951 and again from 18 August until 30 September, after which it began operations at Hoengseong Air Base. It moved entirely to Hoengseong on 2 June 1952

It continued to fly combat missions in Korea from until 8 January 1953 and again, after re-equipping with the North American F-86 Sabre, from 25 February to 27 July 1953.

Vietnam War

The 12th deployed to Vietnam from 1 February – 15 March 1965 and 15 June – 25 August 1965. It supported air defense alert capability in Southeast Asia from, 1968–1972.

The squadron stood alert in South Korea from, 23 January – 13 June 1968, after seizure of the U.S.S. Pueblo by North Korea.

Operations in the Pacific

The squadron was unmanned and unequipped from May 1972 until November 1975. It remanned and reequipped with McDonnell F-4 Phantom II aircraft in late November 1975. Through 1980, it flew offensive and defensive exercises in support of its wing, the 313th Air Division, and Pacific Air Forces. It converted to McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle aircraft in 1980. In 1981, the 12th earned the Hughes Trophy in recognition as the outstanding fighter squadron in the USAF.

On 5 November 1999, the squadron moved without personnel or equipment to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska where it joined the 3d Wing on 28 April 2000. Between 2000 and 2008, it performed offensive and defensive counter-air missions with current air-to-air weaponry, including night vision goggles (NVG), to achieve air superiority in support of taskings from 3 Wing.

At Elmendorf Air Force Base, the squadron employed the F-15C air superiority fighter in global expeditionary support of war-fighting commands. The squadron was inactivated in September 2006, due the Base Realignment and Closure of 2005.

Remotely piloted vehicles

The 12th was redesignated the 12th Special Operations Squadron and activated at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico to operate RPVs from forward deployed locations during critical flight maneuvers when operating the craft by transmitting signals through satellites could potentially endanger them due to the delay in signal transmission. It absorbed the personnel and equipment of a small detachment that had been performing the same mission at Cannon since October 2013. The squadron is the first of its kind in the United States Air Force, and is being considered as a model for similar units by Air Combat Command.


  • Constituted as the 12th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) on 20 November 1940
  • Activated on 15 January 1941 Redesignated 12th Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942 Redesignated 12th Fighter Squadron, Two Engine on 26 January 1944 Redesignated 12th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine on 6 May 1946 Redesignated 12th Fighter Squadron, Jet on 23 December 1949 Redesignated 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 20 January 1950 Redesignated 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 1 July 1958 Redesignated 12th Fighter Squadron on 1 October 1991 Inactivated in October 2007
  • Redesignated 12th Special Operations Squadron
  • Activated c. 1 June 2015


  • 50th Pursuit Group (later 50th Fighter Group), 15 January 1941 (attached to 7th Interceptor Command (later VII Fighter Command, 10 February – 17 August 1942
  • 15th Fighter Group, 18 August 1942
  • US Army Forces in South Pacific, 1 December 1942
  • XIII Fighter Command, 13 January 1943
  • 18th Fighter Group (later 18th Fighter-Bomber Group), 30 March 1943
  • Attached to:
  • Thirteenth Air Force, 2 September 1957
  • 18 Fighter-Bomber Wing (later 18th Tactical Fighter Wing), 25 March 1958
  • Attached to
  • 18th Tactical Fighter Group, 1 May 1978
  • 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, 11 February 1981
  • 18th Operations Group, 1 October 1991
  • 3d Operations Group, 28 April 2000 – October 2007
  • 27th Special Operations Group, c. 1 June 2015 – present
  • Awards and campaigns

  • Hughes Trophy: 1981
  • References

    12th Special Operations Squadron Wikipedia

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