1370th Photo Mapping Wing
Turner AFB, GA (1959-1966) and Forbes AFB, KS (1966-1973)
The 1370th Photo Mapping Wing had sole responsibility for the Air Force’s aerial mapping photography and electronic surveying. The three-fold mission included worldwide precision photo-mapping, electronic controlled photo-mapping, and aerial electronic geodetic surveys. In the age of high speed and largely automatic flight and increasing importance of missiles, the size and shape of the earth and the exact location of points on its surface are of great national significance.
The 1370th got the airborne data, which is the raw material for the fantastically accurate map, that these requirements demanded. Primary mission flying was accomplished by either the 1371st, with their RB-50’s (later replaced by RC-135), or the 1375th, with their RC-130’s. The 1371st also furnished flying personnel for the C-54’s, C-118, C-47, CH-21’s, CH-3’s, and HH-43’s used as cargo carriers.
The Wing was organized into seven squadrons, one operation location, and several aerial survey teams. The more than 1,500 assigned personnel based in Albany, Georgia spent approximately half of each year deployed to project locations all over the world.
The 1370th Photo Mapping Wing moved from Turner AFB, GA to Forbes AFB, KS in May 1966. It’s commander, Col. Ted Tatum, had previously headed the USAF’s Air Rescue and Recovery Service. Equipped with big four-jet Boeing RC-135’s, the 1370th had a global mission: Triangulating on ground transmitters manned by small parties of airmen, the planes took high-resolution strip photos from nearly five miles up and used them to produce history’s most accurate maps. In October 1968 the wing was redesignated the Aerospace Cartographic and Geodetic Service. It remained at Forbes until 1973 and was the last major unit to leave the base.
(Editors note: Just a coincidence, I know, but the 4 RC-135’s were converted to KC-135’s and later went back to Forbes with the ANG Refueling unit. That weird or what? Also, most of the RC-130A’s were at Forbes and the last of ACGS to leave. The final five aircraft (57-0510 through 57-0515) were transferred to Keesler AFB, MS and attached to the 9th Weather Recon Wing. They flew the very last USAF aircraft photomapping missions from Keesler. One of them, #57-0512 is still flying for IAR in Tucson, AZ.)
Aerial Survey Teams were the “Work Horses” of the 1370th Photo-Mapping Wing. They were composite units of personnel and equipment that went into the field in areas throughout the world and functioned as a complete team accomplishing aerial photo-mapping and surveying. This is where the helicopters performed their main duty, that of installing, removing, then reinstalling at another location, the personnel and equipment for the ground HIRAN radar stations in remote locations.
Communication and electronics support and personnel for the HIRAN ground stations were furnished by the 1374th, while the 1373rd furnished the photographic processing, evaluation, geodetic computations and technical planning for aerial surveying.
All this equipment and aircraft used must be maintained and this was done by the personnel of the 1376th CAMRON (After 1963 as 1370th OMS & FMS) under the supervision of the chief of maintenance.
In 1973 the mapping operations was turned over to the Defense Mapping Agency,not USAF, but still DOD.
The helicopters were either assigned to the wing or on loan from other USAF commands. The helicopters were used mainly in a support capacity, however in most cases the remote ground stations could not have been installed or maintained without them. Here are a few examples:
AST #7, New Guinea, 1963
Screenshot from FS 2004, Century Of Flight
NOTE: For more information and lots of pictures, please visit Aerial Survey and Photomapping History at http://www.1370th.com/