Special Reconnaissance


Special reconnaissance Airmen are special tactics operators with unique training to conduct multi-domain reconnaissance and surveillance across the spectrum of conflict with focus on lethal and non-lethal air-to-ground integration of airpower. They deploy rapidly and undetected by any means, anytime and anywhere to systematically – and with impunity – obtain, transmit, exploit and action time-sensitive information. U.S. Air Force special reconnaissance employs as an element of special tactics teams to prepare the environment, ensure global battlespace awareness, provide global access and affect air, space, cyberspace and information superiority for the successful execution of Joint Force objectives.


The U.S. Army Weather Service originated in 1917 to provide the American Expeditionary Forces with "all the meteorological information needed; and to undertake special investigations in military meteorology and related problems." They first took part in World War I combat operations in France in 1918 within the Army’s Signal Corps.

During World War II, specially trained weather observers, sometimes referred to as guerrilla weathermen, infiltrated behind enemy lines to provide intelligence in support of air strikes, airlifts and airdrops. In every conflict since Vietnam, special operations weathermen have participated in the majority of special operations missions, conducting austere environmental reconnaissance operations, and setting conditions critical to the success of follow-on forces.

On May 5, 2008, the Air Force approved the establishment of a new Air Force Specialty Code for special operations weather teams (SOWT), formally recognizing the requirement for a special reconnaissance capability, uniquely trained to conduct weather operations and to collect and analyze environmental reconnaissance. These operators have since been an integral part of special tactics able to conduct multi-domain reconnaissance and surveillance across the spectrum of conflict and crisis.
Beginning in 2016, Headquarters Air Force and Air Force Special Operations Command recognized the need to look critically at the entire formation. Recognition of the Air Force’s challenges in an era of great power competition drove the evolution of special tactics teams.
On April 30, 2019, SOWT transitioned to special reconnaissance, expanding the capabilities and lethality of Air Force special tactics. Special reconnaissance will continue to maintain their application of lethal and non-lethal air-to-ground integration of airpower. Additionally, they will focus their primary skill set on reconnaissance – long cultivated within their community – into a multi-domain, tactical capability able to provide battlespace awareness, and generate effects of strategic and operational significance.

Highly trained air commandos

Special reconnaissance Airmen are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military. They receive training in surveillance and reconnaissance, multi-domain electronic warfare (EW), long-range precision engagement and target interdiction, small unmanned aircraft systems, preparation of the environment, personnel recovery and advanced special tactics skills.

Special Warfare Preparatory Course (SW Prep), Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas – This eight-week course focuses on strength and conditioning training, running, rucking, swimming, history of special warfare and esprit de corps.

Special Warfare Assessment and Selection Course, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas – This four-week course assesses candidates based on several factors, and selects them if found to be suitable for Special reconnaissance. Only the most dedicated candidates will be selected.

Special Warfare Pre-Dive Course, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas – This four-week course prepares candidates physically and mentally for the rigors of the Special Warfare Combat Dive Course. It consists of intense calisthenics, middle- and long-distance running, swimming and water confidence training.

Special Warfare Combat Dive Course, Panama City, Fla. – This five-week course graduates expert divers. Special reconnaissance Airmen undergo extensive combat dive training, including training on a number of diving systems.

Basic Airborne Course, Fort Benning, Ga. – This three-week course teaches basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.

Military Free-Fall Course, Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. – This four-week course graduates advanced military skydivers.

Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Training, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. – This three-week course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas. Instruction includes principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or environment, and return home.

Underwater Egress Training, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. – This two-day course teaches the principles, procedures, and techniques necessary to successfully egress from a sinking aircraft. Training requires personnel to actually experience water entry and to perform underwater egress.

Special Reconnaissance Course, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. – This eight-week course teaches fundamentals of surveillance and reconnaissance, including associated infiltration, environmental reconnaissance, data collection and transmission, and exfiltration tactics, techniques and procedures.

Special Reconnaissance Apprentice Course, Pope Air Field, N.C. – This eight-week course incorporates and builds on skill sets begun in previous courses. Special reconnaissance students apply their training under pressure while obtaining fundamental combat skills utilizing a range of weapons and strategies. Special reconnaissance Airmen are awarded their AFSC and crest upon graduation from this course.

Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training, Hurlburt Field, Fla. – Training typically lasts between six months and one year. Special reconnaissance Airmen undergo comprehensive and advanced training on weapons, demolition training, advanced surveillance and reconnaissance – to include multi-domain electronic warfare, small unmanned aircraft systems, long-range marksmanship, all-terrain vehicles, maritime operations, and alternate infiltration/exfiltration tactics, techniques and procedures. Special reconnaissance graduates are world-wide deployable special operators.

Additional Training, Multiple additional courses exist which continue the advanced development of Special reconnaissance Airmen. This includes, but is not limited to: Special Operations Sniper training, Advanced Free-Fall training, Advanced Multi-Domain EW training, Advanced Surveillance training, Advanced Preparation of the Environment training, Advanced Personnel Recovery training, and Joint/Combined Special Operations training.

Point of Contact
Air Force Special Operations Command, Public Affairs Office; 229 Cody Ave., Suite 103; Hurlburt Field, FL 32544-5312; DSN 579-5515 or 850-884-5515.

(Current as of July 2020)