Air Commando & Special Operations Terms

This page contains major definitions and identifications of call signs, projects, acronyms, operations etc and other data which was used in Air Commando and Special Operations from WWII to the present. They were obtained from a number of books and my own personal experience. Books referred to are as follows:

1. The USAF in SEA, Development and Employment of Fixed Wing Gunship, 1962-1972, by Jack S. Ballard.

2. The Ravens by Christopher Robbins

3. From a Dark Sky by Orr Kelly

4. Interdiction in Southern Laos 1960-1968 by Jacob Van Staaveren

5. USAF Data of Eugene Rossel

6. Internet Messages from numerous Commandols

7. Honored & Betrayed by General Richard Secord

8. The USAF in sotheast a 1961-1973 by Carl Berger

9. Air Commando by Philip D. Chinnery

10.Apollo's Warriors by Mike E. Hass

11.Any Place, Any Time, Any Where, The 1st Air Commandos in WWII by R.D. Wagner

12.Air Commando & Special Operations Chronololgy 1961-1991 by Herbert H. Kissling

This list is by no means complete and if you have more data that is significant to the history of the USAF Air Commandos & Special Operations from WWII to the present please send it to Gene Rossel at If it becomes to large to manage I will break it down to WWII, Vietnam, and Current.

ABCCC--Vietnam era Airborne Command & Control Center. Called AB Triple C. The first one was a C-47 and later C-130 were used. ABCCC stayed on station 24 hours a day and were known in daytime as Cricket and at night it was replaced by another C-130 called Alley Cat.

Arc Light--SAC B-52 strikes in southern & northern Vietnam & Laos. Initial missions were flown from Anderson AFB, Guam, Kadena AB, Okinawa and U-Tapao RTAFB, Thailand; later all Arc Lights missions were flown from U-Tapao RTAFB, Thailand.

Barrel Roll--Area of operations along the Laos-North Vietnam border. A limited AF-Navy interdiction in northern & southern Laos. Interdiction and close air support operation in eastern Laos(beginning 14 Dec., 1964-with Thai based planes attacking targets in Laos), later redirected to the area of northern Laos(13 April, 1965)

Big Eagle--A-26K night reconnaissance which began in 1966.

Black Spot--NC-123s transports(AC-123) equipped with forward-looking radar(FLIR), low-level-light-television(LLTV), forward-looking infrared, laser ranger, advanced navigation systems, weapon release computer, and weapon dispenser for CBU.

Black Spot--Converted C-123 transports(AC-123) equipped with FLIR, LLTV, forward-looking IR detector, laser ranger, airborne navigation systems/weapons dispenser(CBU).

Black Crow--Sensors used on AC-130 & AC-123 black Spot aircraft for detecting emissions from truck engines.

Blind Bat--Nickname of C-130 FAC/Flareship aircraft operating in Southern Laos.

Blindbat--C-130 flareship used in Laos from Ubon Royal Thai AFB.

BLU--Bomb, live unit.

Blue Chip--7AF commando & Control Center(7AFCCC) which controlled out-country combat operations.

Blue Bonnet

Broadway--Landing zone for allied incursion into Laos in WWII.


Butterfly--Call sign for original enlisted Forward Air Controller(FAC) in Laos. They were replaced in 1967 by commissioned pilots, using the call sign Raven and operated only in Laos.

Cable Chase Aircraft p6 Ballard

Candlestick--Call sign for the C-123 forward air control/flare aircraft in Laos.

CARPETBAGGERS--Special air operations during WWII delivering supplies and personnel to the resistance forces.

CAS--Controlled American Source. code name for the CIA operating out of bases in Northern Thailand into Laos.

CBU--Cluster Bomb Unit(anti-personnel weapons).

CCK--Ching Chuan Kang AB, Taiwan where a lot of special missions were flown in support of Laos.


CHECO--Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Counterinsurgency Operations(1962), Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat Operations(1965), Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations(1970). A DOD study group.

Chindits--Designation for BG Orde Wingate's forces operating behind Japanese lines in Burma. The word is a corruption of the Burmese word Chinthe, the fierce dragonlike creature whose likeness guard Burmese temples.

Combat Skyspot--MSQ-77 & SST-181 radar controlled bombing system. MSQ-77 controlled bombing missions in Steel Tiger, Route Package I, and South Vietnam.

Combat Talon--MC-130 airplane used to carry special forces behind enemy lines.

Commando Hunt--Code name for a series of campaign using sensors to detect and attack enemy forces and truck traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. They covered the period of Nov 68 through Oct 71 and were numbered I to VI.

Commando Hunt--Air interdiction campaign directed against the flow of supplies from North Vietnam to VC & North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam and Cambodia.

Commando Club--Code name for a radar system operated from Site 85 on Phou Pha Thi mountains in northern Laos.

Covey--Call sign of the O-2 & OV-10 FAC aircraft of the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron(TASS) operating in North Vietnam and Laos.

Credible Sport--Test requirements for Combat Talon aircraft.

Credible Chase-The concept and plans to use a short take-off and landing(STOL) aircraft as a mini gunship(AU-23 Pilatius Porter & AU-24 Helio Stallion).

Cricket--A special air & air-ground program in central Laos with many targets selected by tribal & roadwatcher teams. Operations in Laos of O-1E & AC-47 FAC aircraft & the C-130 ABCCC. Began Jan 12, 1966.

Det 4 Gold Fortune--Commando deployment to Sembach, Germany 1 Jan., 1964

Det 3 Bold Venture--Commando deployment to Panama on 10 May, 1962.

Det 5 Tiger Rag--Commando deployment organized in support of AF Strike Command as needed.

Det 6 Water Pump--Commando deployment to Thailand on 6 March 1964.

Det 1 Sandy Beach I--Commandos(4400CCTS) sent to Mali, West Africa to trian Mali paratrooper in Aug 61.

Det 2 Farmgate--Commando deployment to Bien Hoa AB, S. Vietnam on 6 Nov., 1961


FAC--Forward Air Controller

Farmgate--A detachment of USAF Air Commandos from the Special Air Warfare Center(SAWC), Eglin AFB, FL which entered South Vietnam in November, 1961 at President Diem's request, its two-fold mission was training and combat operations. They were sent to Bien Hoa AB, near Saigon and were initially equipped with C-47, U-10, B-26 and AT-28.

FC-47--First of the modified C-47 gunships which later became the AC-47.

Firefly--Flare drop aircraft.

Flaming Dart--Code name assigned to retaliatory strikes against North Vietnam in Feb., 1965. Superseded in March 1965 by Rolling Thunder.

Fulton Recovery System--Method in which a person on the ground releases a line attached to a balloon. The line is snagged by an airplane and the person is reeled into the aircraft. The system was picking up downed aircraft or to recover infiltration forces. The system was deployed but never used in combat.

General Vang Pao(VP)--Leader of th Hmong units opposing North Vietnamese in Laos. Educated in the 1950s at the French Police Academy in Luang Prabang(Royal capital of Laos). Of 80 students in the class VP was the only Hmong and was treated very badly by the other Lao students. He overcame all these obstacles and graduated first in his class. He is a great and proud warrior who has fought all his life against Communism and has supported the US in all our efforts in Laos. He is a good friend of the Air Commandos and Raven FACs as well as many other Government agencies. Presently he lives in Southern California.

Hillsboro--The C-130 Airborne Battlefield Command & Control Center(ABCCC) during the day.

Hmong--Mountain people of Laos who cooperated with the US in resistance to the North Vietnamese. Also known as the Meo and led by Gen Vang Pao.

Ho Chi Minh Trail--North Vietnamese Supply route through Laos into South Vietnam.

Hobo-A A-1E unit involved in rescuing downed pilots.


Hound Dog--Call sign of USAF O-1E FACs.

Igloo White--A surveillance system consisting of hand-implementation and air delivered sensors, relay aircraft and infiltration surveillance center at NKP RTAFB, Thailand. An air supported antivehicular and antipersonnel system using acoustics and seismic sensors. Started Dec 1, 1967. Igloo White was formerly Muscle Shoals.

Jungle Jim--Code name for USAF unit setup in 1961 to help other nations resist Communism aggression. It was also known as the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron which later became the Air Commandos and later Special Operations units

Knife--Call sign for the CH-53 helicop[ters of the 21st.

Lamplighter--Nickname of C-130 aircraft operating in northern Laos; eventually Blindbat became the nickname for all AC-130 flare missions.

Lima Site--Aircraft landing site(dirt strips) in Laos used as resupply landing sites.


Lonesome Tiger--Flight test of forward-looking infrared in the B-26K aircraft(1966).

Long Chieng--Known as Lima Site 20A or 20 Alternate or simply as Alternate. It was also know as LS 98. It was a formal staging area used by the CIA(also called the CIA secret operating base in Laos) and Headquarter for resistance fighters led by Vang Pao.


Lucky Dragon--Reconnaissance of the Laotian and South & North Vietnam borders and selected targets areas by U-2 aircraft of SAC. Began in Feb., 1964.

Lucky Tiger--A aircrew training program at Hurlburt Field.

Moonbeam--ABCCC operating over Southern Laos.


Nail--call sign of O-2 & OV-10 FACs of the 23rd TASS.

Nimrod--Call sign for A-26s of the 56th ACW, Nakhon Phanom(NKP) RTAFB, operating in Laos from 1966 to 1969. The 56ACW was redesignated the 56th Special Operating Wing on 1 August, 1968.

NKP--Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand.

Operation Thursday--The allied incursion into Burma in 1944.

Page Aegis--The 105mm gun system of the AC-130 gunship.

Panama--Call sign of the ground controlled intercept station at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam.

Pave Low--MH-53 helicopter developed for use in low-level operations at night and in bad weather behind enemy lines.

Pave Low--MH-53H/S Helicopter project.

Phou Pha Thi--Secret radar site in Laos, 25 kilometers from North Vietnam border that directed air strikes against the enemy in 1968.

Picadilly--One of the major landing sites used by the WWII Air Commandos during Operations Thursday in 1944.

Plaines des Jarre--Known as the PDJ an area in Central Laos distinguished by large pot-shaped burial urns left by earlier inhabitants.

Pony Express--Support provided by AF helicopter units to tribal intelligence-gathering & targeting operations in Southern Laos& Northern Vietnam.

Prairie Fire--Formally Shining Brass. Consisted of air supported ground reconnaissance teams sent into enemy territory to select targets for air strikes and to make post strike assessment of damage.

Project 9--CODE name for preparation for Operations Thursday incursion into Burma in WWII

Project Shining Brass--Code name for a program of dropping road watch teams near enemy supply routes in North Vietnam and Laos. the name was changed to Prairie Fire in 1968 and Phu Dung in 1971.

Project 404/Palace Dog--A secret USAF unit that controlled much of the Air War in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s.

Project Lucky Tiger--Code name for plans to introduce A-26 attack planes into Laos in 1966.

Project Mill Pond--Code name for the introduction of unmarked B-26 bombers into Thailand to fly "armed reconnaissance" missions over Laos.

Ranch Hand--UC-123 defoliation and herbicide operations.

Raven--Call signs for a small group of USAF Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in Laos flying O-1 Bird Dog aircraft but ha used the U-17, U-10 and the T-28 on occasions.

Red Dog--

Rolling Thunder--Nickname assigned to air strikes against selected targets and lines of communications in North Vietnam(Mar 65-Oct 68).

RTAFB--Royal Thai Air Force Base.


Shadow--AC-119G gunship Call sign.

Shining Brass--US led South Vietnam team and platoon probes into the Ho Chi Minh trail with Army & AF helicopters & aircraft support. Began 15 Sept., 1965. Renamed Prairie Fire on 1 Mar., 1967.

Smokey--CCT FAC call sign in Laos 1964.

Spectre--AC-130 gunship call sign.

Spooky-Call sign of the AC-47 Gunships.

Steel Tiger--The geographic area in Southern Laos designated by 7th AF to facilitate planning & operations, the term also referred to strikes in Southern Laos & against personnel & equipment from North Vietnam. Regular AF-Navy interdiction in Southern Laos of the Ho Chi Minh trail, beginning April 3, 1965(Barrell Roll was thereafter confined to Northern Laos.

Stinger--AC-119K gunship call sign.

Stray Goose--Code name for an operation in which MC-130 Combat Talon planes flew alone and unescorted to drop leaflets, and North Vietnamese currency over Hanoi and Haiphong. Carried on for several years during the 1960s. The operation was ended in 1969.

Task Force Alpha--Code name assigned to the organization in 1967 that built and operated an infiltration and surveillance center for receiving and analyzing acoustics& seismic sensor information on enemy activities in order to pinpoint their location for an air or ground attack. Referred to as the McNamara Line after the Secretary of Defense who promoted it. Located at NKP RTAFB, Thailand.


Tiger Hound--Code name of a special AF, Navy, Marine and Army task force that began interdicting South-easternmost Laos on 5 Dec., 1965.

Tropic Moon--A research program employing A-1Es with low-light-level-television(1966).

Udorn--Thai Air Force Base for Air Commandos operating out of Thailand.

Vientiane--Administrative capital of Laos.

Water Pump--Code name for Det 6, 1stACW(USAF), that deployed to Udorn RTAFB in April, 1964 for the purpose of training and providing logistic support for Thailand but also Laos Air Force personnel.

Wolf--Call sign of the 8th TFW's F-4 FAC at Ubon, RTAFB, Thailand.


Yankee Team--AF & Navy tactical reconnaissance program that began in northern & southern Laos in May 19, 1964.

Zorro--AT-28 in Lucky tiger starting 9 Jan., 1967.