1st ERS U2 Blackbird Dragon Lady Reconnaissance PROJECT OLIVE HARVEST RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus Air Force Challenge Coin / CIA
This coin is 1 9/16 inches in diameter with epoxy on both sides.
1970 saw the Egyptians and the Israelis at war again with both sides slugging it out in a war of attrition across the Suez canal. After a ceasefire had been agreed both sides pulled their troops back to 32 miles either side of the canal. and both the CIA (Det G) and the USAF set about planning a "Fast Move" of a U-2 to monitor the situation.
The CIA were quicker of the mark and two U-2R's were dispatched to RAF Akortiri by way of RAF Upper Heyford under the code name Even Steven. August the 11th saw the first monitoring flight and these went on for three months. These flights were risky due the fact the Egyptians had not agreed to them and there was the ever present SAM threat. Although the CIA did collect some valuable data on both sides air-defence systems.
In early October 1973 the Syrians and Egyptians attacked Israel during the period of Yom Kippur. This attack came as a surprise to Israel and the Egyptians made ground in the Sinai , recapturing land that had been lost in previous wars.
Det G deployed to RAF Upper Heyford under Operation Forward Pass but as both the French and British governments stalled over the overflights and basing the SR-71 in Britain, the missions were re-tasked and flown by the SR-71 from Griffiss AFB on some of the longest missions flown by the Blackbird. By October 22nd a ceasefire had been signed by all but the Syrians and the U-2's of DET G departed Upper Heyford for Edwards AFB in December.
By April 1974 arrangements for a permanent monitoring of the ceasefire had been brokered and DET G deployed again this time to RAF Akrotiri. Missions parameters were agreed for the flights over the Suez/.Sinai with all parties having to agree that each flight could take place up to 48hours in advance of it actually taking place.
Flight parameters were very tight. and the B-Camera and 12 H Camera missions each covered a 64 mile wide strip checking that either side had not moved fresh military hardware into the canal zone. Unfortunately the Syrians would not fully cooperate, and these mission were planned with the U-2 keeping away from the Syrian SAM site's and keeping over Israeli held territories.
Further missions were flown but DET G's time at Akrotiri was running out. and as members of the 100th SRW arrived to take over the operation, thing got a bit hotter on the island as the civil war between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots started. The 1st SRTS is based at Beale AFB , CA while the 99th RS operates the actual flying missions world wide with the exception of the 5th RS which covers North Korean operations.
The detachment that was based at Istres in France ( OL-FR) later moved to Sigonella (OL-IT) Italy and was performing the mission requirement over the Balkan area of operation. There was also the detachment of the 99th RS at RAF Akortiri covering the middle eastern area of operation. This detachment has been called Det 3 and Det 1 of the 9th SRW/RW during it time at RAF Akrotiri. A further Detachment (4) of the 99th RS is in the United Arab Emirates.
The Sigonella / Akortiri detachments were combined at Akrotiri as the 99th ERS. This was later changed in 2006 to the 1st ERS. What was originally a 60 day deployment in 1974, has now lasted 37years! Two U-2's are stationed at RAF Akrotiri and they are still monitoring the ceasefire agreement between the Egypt and Israel although the present crisis in the Middle east requires further missions .
U-2's also transit through RAF Akrotiri either on going into theater or returning to Beale AFB . The aircraft stationed can be configured with ASARS II, SYERS , ELINT or CAMERA Systems and can be mission ready in 2 hours.