Aerial Reconnaissance Exhibit

National Security Agency (NSA)

Active-duty and former military service members have sought to honor the sacrifices of aerial reconnaissance crews for some time. With changes in world politics and national security concerns, it became possible to declassify the existence of the program. This declassification provided the opportunity to recognize publicly the sacrifices made by servicemen performing aerial reconnaissance missions. Of the more than 150 cryptologists who have sacrificed their lives, 64 were involved in aerial reconnaissance missions. The museum displays two exhibits paying special tribute to the individuals who risked everything and the aerial reconnaissance mission that played a crucial role in the Cold War.

USAF C-130
On September 2, 1958, Soviet MiG-17 pilots shot down a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft. While conducting its mission, a USAF C-130 strayed into restricted airspace over Soviet Armenia. It was supposed to fly a "race track" pattern between the Turkish cities of Trabzon and Van essentially parallel to the Armenian border. It is unclear why the C-130 crossed into Armenian space. It is possible that the aircraft became confused between the navigational beacons in Turkey and those on similar frequencies in Armenia and Soviet Georgia.

The Soviets denied shooting down the aircraft, claiming the plane "fell" into their territory. At the time, they returned six bodies of service personnel. Seventeen men had been on board. Hoping the Soviets would have more information concerning the other 11 servicemen, the United States released tape recordings of the Soviet fighter pilots' communications during the shootdown, which clearly indicated the pilots took offensive action against the C-130. Despite the release of this information, the Soviets continued to deny involvement. It was not until the end of the Cold War that they released previously classified documents indicating that all 17 U.S. personnel had died in the crash.

An Air Force C-130 was refurbished and painted to match the markings of the down aircraft, #60528. It was flown to Fort Meade and dedicated at the National Vigilance Park on September 2, 1997.


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