4 inch Parati Defendere 6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing Patch – Plastic Backing
The wing moved on paper to Eielson, where it became the 6th Strategic Wing and assumed the personnel, equipment and mission of the 4157th Strategic Wing. In addition to a maintenance squadron, the wing was assigned the new 24th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron.[note 9]
In Alaska, the wing’s 24th Squadron flew RC–135 strategic reconnaissance missions and conducted Alaska Tanker Task Force[note 10] missions with deployed KC–135s from SAC, the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. Task force aircraft flew missions to support reconnaissance and numerous exercises for the Air Force and United States Navy. From April 1968 to July 1972 the wing periodically served as the airborne monitor of the Alaskan Ballistic Missile Early Warning System station at Clear, Alaska. The wing maintained a detachment at Shemya Air Force Station, in the Aleutian Islands On two occasions, from February through May 1975 and June through September 1976, the wing moved all operations to Shemya when Eielson closed for repair of earthquake damage.
The wing won the P.T. Cullen Award for greatest contributions to SAC’s photographic and signal intelligence effortsthree times, in 1973, 1978 and 1983. On 4 October 1968, exactly 11 years to the day after the launch of Sputnik-1, a wing Rivet Ball aircraft captured the first photographic evidence of a Soviet ICBM test with three multiple reentry vehicles.
The wing suffered several losses while at Eielson. On 13 January 1969, RC-135S, serial 59-1491 hydroplaned off the end of Runway 28 at Shemya while attempting to land after an operational mission. The aircraft was totally destroyed. No one was seriously injured. On 5 June 1969 an RC-135E crashed in the Bering Sea minutes after leaving Shemya. Nineteen crewmembers died. On 15 March 1981, an RC-135 Cobra Ball aircraft, serial 61-2664 departed Eielson for Shemya with 24 people on board. While attempting to land on Shemya they encountered a rapid decline in weather that resulted in a crash landing. Six men lost their lives and several medals were awarded for bravery. On 25 February 1985, an RC-135T, serial 55-3121 Rivet Dandy aircraft crashed into a mountainous area near Valdez, Alaska while on a training mission. All three crewmembers perished. The wreckage was not located until 2 August 1985.
On 1 April 1988, SAC renamed the wing the 6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. In December 1991, it was decided to transfer the wing’s reconnaissance mission to the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and terminate the Alaska Tanker Task. The 24th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron moved to Offutt on 7 July 1992, terminating the wing’s operational mission and it was inactivated on 1 September 1992.