The Big Safari Association (BSA) is a 501(c)7, non-profit fraternal organization, associated with, but separate from, the Air Force’s Big Safari Program. The BSA is dedicated to maintaining life-long friendships, fostering contact between Members, and supporting the Air Force’s Big Safari Program. Its Membership consists primarily of Active Duty and Retired Air Force Service Members, DoD Civilians, and civilian contractors who have been, or are, currently associated with the Air Force’s 645th AESG. This includes those who have served in the Big Safari Program Office and its subordinate units, those who have operated the many systems built through or provided by the Big Safari Program, and those in industry contracted by the Big Safari Program to build those weapons systems.  The mission of the BSA is to promote fellowship, to provide a forum for developing government and industry teamwork, to support one another, to keep the membership informed, and to hold reunions for the members to remain in touch.

According to the official “History of Big Safari,” USAF’s Big Safari Program traces its roots to a 1952 request from the Commander in Chief, United States Air Force Europe (CinC USAFE) to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) to seek “a specially modified aircraft to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions” in the European theater.   This operational need was a direct response to the rapid rise of Communist influence and aggression in Eastern Europe. The CSAF, General Hoyt Vandenberg, directed senior Air Force officers to establish a specific set of procedures that would provide rapid procurement and delivery of aircraft that would satisfy the CinC’s needs. Ultimately, Mr. Furman O’Rear was appointed as the HQ USAF project officer for this new task.  Then, Major, (and later LtGen) George Rhodes, working closely with Mr. O’Rear established the guidelines that would provide for the streamlined acquisition “necessary to provide timely capabilities and support.”  These procedures were briefed to the CSAF, approved, and directed to be employed to provide “special projects in the shortest possible time and under the constraint of limited funds, paperwork, and people.”

This effort came to be known as “Big Safari.” The tenets of the Big Safari acquisition system include rapid response and life cycle support to high priority requirements that are: of sufficient importance to warrant the Big Safari quick reaction procedures; involve only a small number of systems; require predominantly engineering modifications and installation of existing equipment; require continued non-standard support; and systems that require extraordinary classified system protection.  Also, General Rhodes saw the HQ USAF approval of sole-source contracting and the pairing of Big Safari and its contractors as a key to the success of the program.

The Nation continues to benefit from those courageous, glass-breaking efforts from six decades ago. The Members of the Big Safari Association serve to retain the history of the Big Safari Program, support and maintain the original tasks directed by General Vandenberg, and enable the future of this amazing organization.