What is a "habu" ?

A habu (pronounced "hah-BOO") is a venomous snake found in southeast Asia (Japan, Phillipines, Taiwan, southeast China).

Habus are pit vipers, more closely related to the adder than to any species of North American snake. The actual "habu" (Trimeresurus flavoviridis) is relatively small, not usually getting longer than 5 feet. They are not typically aggressive but will bite if provoked.  They are not as deadly as cobras or mambas, but are more much more dangerous than most North American venomous snakes.  There are almost a dozen species of habu; the variety native to Okinawa (Trimeresurus okinavensis) is supposedly greenish or greenish-yellow; however, all habus are extremely rare in North America (less than a dozen specimens in all zoos combined) and photographs are very hard to come by.

When the A-12s (and later the SR-71s) were first flown to their new remote base at Kadena AFB in Okinawa, the local people thought that this strange and somewhat wicked-looking airplane was shaped like the habu snake.  They started calling it the habu airplane, and later just habu.  Crews who flew the airplane were also called Habu, and the name came to be recognized with the blackbird program and even incorporated into the insignia worn by the crews on their uniforms.

The HABU patch was only awarded to crews who had flown operational sorties.  Over time HABU has come to be associated with all blackbird pilots and crews, but in the truest sense of the word, it represents only those who flew operational sorties.  As pilot Rich Graham explained, "you had to fly an SR-71 on an Operational Sortie to earn the Habu patch!"  If you ever meet someone who claims to have flown the blackbird, you can verify their claim by looking up their name on this page:


Reconnaisance Systems Officer Curt Osterheld proudly wears his Habu patch

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