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USAF SOLO patch ? please help ID


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Wow! You guys are good! I was racking my brain for what the acronym could stand for. What a neat concept! I personally do not know what the SOLO stands for, but I can tell you that this guy was involved with missile testing out of NAS Pt. Mugu (possibly the Mr. Magoo character reference) during the 1960's and his work seemed to be involved with flight ops.

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I would also make a guess that the smaller patch on the left depicts the aerial recovery of a Ryan 147 "Lightning Bug" drone

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Thanks Matt-M

The Drone could fly a preprogrmmed route or it could be flown by the pilot of the DC-130. Possibly the pilots first SOLO attempt at flying the Drone.

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  • 6 years later...

(I checked the forum rules but didn't see anything against resurrecting a years old thread, please let me know if I'm breaking etiquette, here.)

I came across this post in doing some research and fact checking on my late grandfather's memoirs and can shed a little light on the USAF SOLO patch, as he is the one who designed it.

This was a part of the Big Safari program. His memoirs state he was with the AFLC/LOR.Det 2, 2750ABG, originally based out of Wright-Patterson. Their job was to work directly with Ryan for quick turnaround and deployment of photo recce., SIGINT, ELINT, and "poppycock Bomber" pamphlet dropping drones (among other uses). Their outfit are the ones who invented the MARS system for snatching the drones out of the air with a helo. My grandfather was the AFQAR (Air Force Quality Assurance Representative) for the drones and flight engineer for the associated DC-130, and the pole operator for the MARS. This was all a part of the SPA (Special Purpose Aircraft aka: Sneaky Peak) program, Top Secret and very hush-hush at the time.

The MARS patch does represent the Lightning Bug recce drones, and the USAF SOLO patch shows a Firebee and the DC-130. The original design had a black colored Firebee, since many of the photo recce drones were painted black. It did not pass security and was revised to the final design.  I'm not sure what the "SOLO" stands for, as that's not clarified in his memoirs that I can tell. 

They developed a lot of fascinating drone tech, Some of the accomplishments he lists are Cambridge Research Labs Contrail Suppression System, Smoke & Camera systems, Loran "D", HUD, MARS, 3 new propulsion systems, Ground launch, Rocket Motors, Laser, Computer Programs, Stellar Inertial Guidance, "and on and on"

This unit is also the ones who fished the pilot out of the water after the M--21/D-21 crash that ended the M-21 program. They happened to be over the water at the time and were told to drop everything int he water and go looking. For what? "You'll know when you see it". He also later went on to be a flight test engineer on the SR-71 project.

There's a lot of stuff about this unit in his memoirs, if anyone wants further information, I'll do my best to answer questions. Unfortunately, I am not sure what the SOLO stands for, I'm still trying to figure that out. 

And to prove I'm not full of it, here are the original design, revision, and a finished sticker from the unit. The last image I'm assuming are other units from Mugu or Big Safari. I haven't gotten around to researching those, so if anyone has any leads I would appreciate it!

It was very cool to see this post, btw. He was very proud of his work on these drones, and er also have both of these patches, they're are displayed in a frame we made out of his various unit patches during his time with the USAF and beyond.



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Oh cool, I'm glad you saw this, Matt-M! I've been looking into the meaning of the SOLO thing, and I think it just means it's a "Solo Platform", as in it doesn't require interaction with any other units to operate. He usually mentions it in conjunction with Big Safari, which was all covert stuff, so it'd make sense to be self-sufficient. I also wonder if it may mean that they were the only USAF folks at NAS Pt Mugu. He said his unit's flight suits were part Navy and part USAF and their name tags were the only ones like it in the USAF. 

I'm learning a lot about the Firebee and Lightning Bug platforms in the process of this fact checking. There's some seriously cool stuff that went on in the 60s-70s with RPV/UAVs. A Firebee shot the first Maverick missile from an unmanned platform, same thing with the HOBO smart bomb. Probably the most significant use was photo recce over Vietnam and China, providing valuable intelligence with very short turn around for the day. The Firebee provided the first photographic proof of SA-2 SAM site in North Vietnam, and the only bomb damage assessment of the B-52 raids during Operation Linebacker II. 

I found that the last use of the Firebees was in the 2003 Iraq invasion. They laid the chaff corridors for the cruise missiles that hit Baghdad. The first 2 were ground launched (RATO or JATO) because the ONLY DC-130 Drone Controller left in the entire military was grounded at the time. They got it up in the air the next day to launch the other 3 Firebees. 

Anyways, I'm just rambling now. Glad you saw this and happy I could help!

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