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: