The 7406th Support Squadron was activated at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany on 10 May 1955 and received its first aircraft (RB-50s) in March 1956. The RB-50s were replaced with specially configured C-130A-II recon aircraft in 1958. The first C-130A (56-0484) was assigned in March 1958. Other C-130A-II aircraft assigned to the 7406th SS included in order of assignment from July to October 1958: 56-0525, 56-0528, 56-0530, 56-0534, 56-0538,56-0541, 56-0535 and 56-0540. One of these C-130s (56-0528) was shot down with the loss of a crew of seventeen (six 7406th flight crew members and eleven USAFSS recon flyers) over Soviet Armenia on Sept 2, 1958, becoming the first C-130 lost to hostile fire. Four Soviet MiG-17 pilots took turns firing on the unarmed C-130 when the American aircraft inadvertently penetrated Soviet airspace while on a recon mission along the Turkish-Armenian border. C-130 56-0528 had less than 200 flying hours when it was shot down. On Sept 2, 1997, the National Security Agency (NSA) dedicated at National Vigilance Park, Fort Meade, Maryland an Aerial Recon Memorial consisting of a refurbished C-130A tail number 57-0453 that has been restored to look identical to C-130A 56-0528 when it was shot down. The Aerial Recon Memorial honors all SILENT WARRIORS (all military airborne recon crews) who paid the ultimate price while defending their country.
The mission of the 7406th SS was airborne reconnaissance. The 7406th SS owned and maintained the aircraft and provided the flight crews. A separate USAF Security Service squadron provided the recon crew that manned the intelligence collection positions on the aircraft. C-130B-II aircraft that had previously been assigned at Yokota Air Base, Japan from 1961-1971 were sent to the 7406th at Rhein-Main in 1971 -- replacing the C-130A-II models that were converted to original 'cargo' configuration and assigned to air national guard units in CONUS. The 7406th SS continued flying recon missions from Rhein-Main in the C-130B models until June 30th 1973 when the squadron's sister Security Service flying squadron moved to Athens, Greece. The 7406th SS operations remained at Rhein-Main but flew its operational missions out of Athens from 1 July 1973 until its last C-130B-II mission was flown on June 13, 1974. The 7406th SS was deactivated in June 1974.
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