Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Mission Patches

We are unfair, and unfair.
We are black magicians,
black arts we make
in black labs of the heart.

The fair are fair,
and deathly white.

The day will not save them
and we own the night.

Amiri Baraka State/Meant

From Universe, a page I really must put on my blogroll ASAP:

The most recent issue of Cabinet Magazine has a really good article by artist and CIA expert Trevor Palgen about the iconography of military insignia, particularly of those branches of the military that "don't exist." How do you celebrate your work with traditional military regalia, Palgen asks, while retaining the secrecy which defines it? It's an interesting question.

Well, sometimes you don't. Take for example this embroidered patch, distributed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the US "black" space agency primarily responsible for the operation of military reconnaissance satellites (and God-knows-what-else). The patch was released by the NRO to commemorate the launch of a Titan 4B from Vandenberg Air Force Base -- one that boosted, according to the Air Force, a classified payload into orbit.

Classified, that is, unless you can read into the NRO's weird symbolism. Apparently, the patch -- right down to the angles of those boomerang shapes -- is a dead giveaway about the launch payload, that, it has now been confirmed, were four "Lacrosse" recon-satellittes, which give the U.S. military the ability to monitor problem spots around the world and accurately target weapons in almost real time. Yikes, that is a whole other ball of yarn entirely that I am not going to tangle with now.
I won't include the hyperlinks - "fair use" has its limits, and the original article is whorthy of more attention. I might just look at Cabinet Magazine too.

This post was originally inspired by an article over at Space Review, Secrets and Signs, which has far more such "giveaway" patches.

One that doesn't appear there is my favourite. And this is the one that, if I had my way, all "sensitive" missions would have as their only unclassified patch, along with the actual mission designation. The "real" mission patches would remain only in the various classified museums (well, at least for 50 years or so), and in the payload-makers hearts. It's important that they be made, but not that anyone else should know. Not just yet.


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