Before “Curtain Raiser” in 1967 for ICBMs, those working with air-launched missiles had already been competing in competitions since as early as 1955. Those earlier events, with names such as Weapons Meet, Rocket Meet, and Weapons Loading Competition, were every bit as demanding as those in later years that most missileers are more familiar with. Because of the diversity of ballistic missile systems during the early 1960s, it was not feasible for SAC to conduct a force-wide competition, but after the last of the Atlas-D, Atlas-E, Atlas-F, and Titan I systems were retired in 1965, the ball started rolling on a competition for personnel operating and maintaining the remaining ICBMs: Titan II and Minuteman. The inaugural event in 1967, fittingly, was called “Curtain Raiser.” There was no competition in 1968 because of the demand placed on SAC by the Vietnam War, but the comp resumed in 1969 with the name “Olympic Arena”–a name that was changed, briefly, a couple of times over the next 24 years but always came back, even outliving SAC by a year! In 1994, under Air Force Space Command, the annual competition was called Guardian Challenge. By the mid-2000s, it was no longer an annual event, and then in 2009, AFSPC handed off the ICBMs to the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command, which created an entirely new competition called Global Strike Challenge. Like its predecessor, it too is not an annual event, primarily for fiscal reasons, but it is still one that most “Strikers” look forward to with great anticipation.
As the title suggests, patches in this album were made to commemorate a specific event or period, and are therefore presented chronologically, from earliest to latest, with the year listed first and specific date or dates listed in parentheses at the end of the caption. In some cases, there is little distinction between an achievement patch and a commemorative patch, and the choice for placement was therefore not always an easy one, so if you don’t find the patch you’re looking for in this album, try the Achievements & Qualifications album, but most patches displaying a year or date will be found here. Such patches include those for anniversaries, the Bicentennial, code changes, COVID-19, inspections, IOC attainment, special Titan II launches, and inactivation/mission complete. Notable exceptions are patches associated with a trophy award, most of which are contained in the Competitions album and the remainder of which are in the Achievements & Qualifications album.
The Boeing CIM-10 BOMARC (IM-99 Weapon System prior to September 1962) was a supersonic ramjet-powered long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) fielded during the Cold War for the air defense of North America. In addition to being the first operational long-range SAM, it was also the only SAM ever deployed by the USAF. Stored horizontally in a launcher shelter with a movable roof, the missile was erected, launched vertically using rocket boosters to high altitude, and then tipped over into a horizontal Mach 2.5 flight, powered by the ramjets. Controlled from the ground for most of its flight, when it reached the target area it was commanded to begin a dive, activating an onboard radar-homing seeker for terminal guidance. A radar proximity fuse detonated the warhead, either a large conventional explosive or a nuclear warhead. The Air Force originally planned for a total of 52 sites covering most of the major cities and industrial regions in the U.S., but the Army’s Nike Hercules ended up covering many of those areas. As testing continued, the Air Force reduced its plans to 16 sites, and then to just eight, with two more sites in Canada. The first U.S. site was declared operational in 1959. Boeing started to study surface-to-air guided missiles under project MX-606 in 1946. By 1950, Boeing had launched more than 100 test rockets in various configurations, and because these tests were very promising, Boeing received a USAF contract in 1949 to develop a pilotless interceptor (a term then used by the USAF for air-defense guided missiles) under project MX-1599. The MX-1599 missile was to be a ramjet-powered, nuclear-armed long-range surface-to-air missile to defend the Continental United States from high-flying bombers. The Michigan Aerospace Research Center (MARC) joined the project soon afterward, and this gave the new missile its name: BOMARC (the BO from Boeing). In 1951, the USAF decided to emphasize its point of view that missiles were just pilotless aircraft by assigning aircraft designators to its missile projects, and anti-aircraft missiles received F-for-Fighter designations. The BOMARC thus became the F-99. In August 1955, the USAF discontinued the use of aircraft-like type designators for missiles, and the XF-99A and YF-99A became XIM-99A and YIM-99A, respectively. In October 1957, the first YIM-99A production prototype flew with full guidance, and succeeded to pass the target within destructive range. In late 1957, Boeing received the production contract for the IM-99A BOMARC interceptor missile, and in September 1959, the first IM-99A squadron became operational. The IM-99A had an operational radius of 200 miles and was designed to fly at Mach 2.5-2.8 at a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet. The liquid-fuel booster of the BOMARC-A had several drawbacks. It took two minutes to fuel before launch, which could be a long time in high-speed intercepts, and its hypergolic propellants (nitric acid and hydrazine) were very dangerous to handle, leading to several serious accidents. As soon as high-thrust solid-fuel rockets became a reality, the USAF began to develop a new solid-fueled BOMARC variant, the IM-99B (BOMARC-B). The first successful IM-99B flight was in July 1960. Because the new booster took up less space inside the missile, more ramjet fuel could be carried, increasing the range from 200 to 430 miles. All BOMARC-B missiles were equipped with the W-40 nuclear warhead. In June 1961, the first IM-99B squadron became operational, and BOMARC-B quickly replaced most BOMARC-A missiles. On 23 March 1961, a BOMARC-B successfully intercepted a Regulus II cruise missile flying at 100,000 feet, thus achieving the highest interception in the world up to that date. Boeing built 570 BOMARC missiles between 1957 and 1964, 269 “A” models and 301 “B” models. Up until September 1958, BOMARC testing was conducted at Cape Canaveral, but at that time the testing and training program was relocated to a new facility on Santa Rosa Island, just across the water from Eglin AFB’s Hurlburt Field. To operate the facility and to provide training and operational evaluations, ADC established the 4751 ADW there. The first launch from Santa Rosa Island took place on 15 January 1959. From that time on, all BOMARC personnel were trained by the 4751st. The BOMARC suffered just one serious accident. On 7 June 1960, a BOMARC-A with a nuclear warhead caught fire at McGuire AFB after its on-board helium tank exploded. While the explosives did not detonate, the heat melted the warhead and released plutonium, which the fire crews ended up spreading. The Air Force and the AEC cleaned up the site and covered it with concrete. The site remained in operation for several years following the fire. Since its closure in 1972, the area has remained off limits, primarily due to low levels of plutonium contamination. By the early 1970s, the BOMARC weapons system was considered obsolete because during the 1960s the threat had shifted from waves of manned bombers to showers of ballistic missiles. Deactivations began in 1969 and by 1972 all BOMARC sites had been shut down. Many of the missiles ended up being used as target drones, and a few were placed on static display.
Awarded upon completion of 100 alerts. This is the first in the series of ALERTS milestone patches produced in increments of a hundred up through 500. The five patches in the series were unveiled by Maj Gen Anthony Cotton, 20 AF/CC, at the Twentieth Air Force Senior Leadership Conference at F.E. Warren AFB, 18-21 September 2016. The idea for these came from a Force Improvement Program recommendation in 2014 and it was important for the design to come from the crewmembers–the ones performing the mission. The design submitted by 1st Lt Raun Carnley, a Missile Combat Crew Commander in the 320 MS, “was just what 20th AF was looking for…. [It] stood out among the rest,” according to a 20 AF spokesperson. The “100” and the contrail of the RV are both white on this version of the patch. Patch donated by Monte Watts in October 2016.
This NAF created an assortment of this type of patch, each depicting a different type of aircraft flown by Eighth Air Force personnel. This particular version features an EC/KC-135 and was worn by, among others, ALCS personnel who flew on the various models of the EC-135. Like this NAF’s Missile Crew Member patch, longevity rockers were made to accompany the basic patch, but unlike those for the missile crew members that indicated years, these indicated hours in increments of 500, maxing out at 5000+ (these denoted accumulated flight durations).
This patch was worn by missileers assigned to Eighth Air Force missile units. The patch purportedly depicts a Titan II missile, and this is supported by the fact that the patch first showed up at the Titan wings (circa 1983). Although it’s apparently a Titan patch, it is known to have been worn at Minuteman units in this NAF as well. The missile represents the NAF’s ICBMs and the target above it symbolizes bull’s-eye accuracy. These patches have been observed in bright yellow and also in a more attractive golden orange. A crown and rockers were available for wear with the basic Eighth Air Force missile patch, although crew members at one or two of the Titan wings claim they never saw them (rocker wear could be confirmed only at McConnell). These segments were as follows: CREW COMMANDER – This particular crown patch was issued to the Titan crew commander–the ranking officer on the four-person crew. TWO YEARS – An assortment of rockers denoted longevity. The first one usually earned was this TWO YEARS rocker; subsequent rockers were issued in two-year increments, as follows: FOUR YEARS, SIX YEARS, EIGHT YEARS, and TEN+ YEARS. The “+” symbol on the Ten Years rocker negated the need for rockers in any higher increments.
The silver metal star devices were sometimes replaced by embroidered silver stars, as can be seen on this patch that depicts either 7,000 hours of flying time or, for Missile Combat Crew Members–Airborne, a tally of 400 alerts. Week-long alerts, which were typical for aircrews, were counted as seven alerts by missileers because the typical underground missile alert at the time was a 24-hour period, or one day, and if foul weather resulted in a 48-hour alert, it was counted as two alerts, even though it had been “signed for” only once. NOTE: To denote alert totals, metal stars were also added to the Missile Crew SAC Warrior patch, which is covered in the MAJCOMs album in the Higher Headquarters section because it was worn without any stars by those who did not yet qualify for one–and it was not initially intended primarily as an alerts tally patch.
Three gold stars have been added to each laurel branch on this version. (See entry for the 100 Missions version for additional info.)
In addition to changing the 100 to 200, this version also added laurel branches to the border. (See entry for the 100 Missions version for additional info.)
This patch was produced commercially by the Mercenary Missileer company and marketed to individual crew members at any and all missile wings. It debuted around Y2K, while the wings were still designated Space Wings and after they had completed the REACT upgrade, and was intended to commemorate completion of 100 Missions (underground alerts). The LCC depicted on the patch contains a REACT console with two stick figures on either side of it representing the two crew members, but there is no mention of REACT on the patch. Because there is no organizational designation displayed on the patch, other than “US AIR FORCE,” or any specific geographical region (just the CONUS), it is generic enough to be used at any of the Minuteman bases. It even may have been worn by members of the Peacekeeper-equipped 400 MS if they were willing to ignore the REACT console and the Minuteman missile depicted on the patch. The border contains the inscription “STRATEGIC ALERT” (above) and “100 MISSIONS” (below). Similar patches were made for completion of 200 and 300 missions.