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C-135 Variants - Part Two

by Jennings Heilig

 

KC-135A 55-3126, Night Watch Airborne Command Post, Andrews AFB, Maryland, 1962

 


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Description

 

Here are five colour profiles of C-135 variants prepared in Illustrator:

1 (title image). KC-135A 55-3126, Night Watch Airborne Command Post, Andrews AFB, Maryland, 1962

This was the original "Night Watch" airborne command post, which was the aircraft designated to carry the National Command Authorities to safety in case of nuclear attack. She is shown as she appeared in 1962 when based at Andrews AFB, Maryland.


 

2. NKC-135E 55-3135, Det. 1, 4950th Test Wing, Aeronautical Systems Division, Air Force Systems Command, Edwards AFB, California, fall 1984

 



One of the many "piccolo tube" NKC-135s, '135 was the 17th KC-135A built, and was modified in the 1960s as part of the Terminal Radiation Airborne Program (TRAP). After the termination of that test work she was (and continues to be) used as an instrumented tanker for aerial refuelling test work at Edwards AFB. This aircraft has refuelled every prototype that has flown at Edwards since the late 1960s. I had the opportunity to fly aboard her during a mission supporting the F-16XL test program while at Edwards AFB in the fall of 1984.


 

3. NKC-135A 55-3129, Det. 1, 4950th Test Wing, Aeronautical Systems Division, Air Force Systems Command, Edwards AFB, California, 1979

 



In 1979 this aircraft was retrofitted with Whitcomb winglets to test their suitability for the KC-135 tanker fleet. Although the program was highly successful and demonstrated a dramatic decrease in fuel consumption, the USAF elected to go forward with the KC-135E and R re-engining programs instead.


 

4. RC-135D 60-0326, 6th Strategic Wing, Eielson AFB, Alaska, 1967

 



This was one of the three RC-135D "Rivet Brass" airplanes which were based in Alaska throughout the 1960s and early '70s. They flew regular missions from Alaska along the northern periphery of the USSR, often undertaking shuttle missions to RAF Upper Heyford, and later to RAF Mildenhall. Although technically built as a KC-135A tanker, along with her sisters '356 and '357, '362 was delivered to the USAF as a "falsie" C-135A without a boom, pending delivery of the first dedicated cargo carrying C-135As in 1961. Today she flies as a KC-135R tanker.


 

5. RC-135E 62-4137, Det. 1, 6th Strategic Wing, Shemya AFS, Alaska, 1968

 



The sole RC-135E, originally known as "Lisa Ann" and later as "Rivet Amber", was truly unique. She flew missions complimenting those of the previously shown RC-135S "Rivet Ball" aircraft. Despite numerous published references, she most emphatically did NOT have a wrap-around radome. The aircraft carried a huge phased array radar aimed out the right side of the forward fuselage. Installation of this radar required extensive structural modification to the airframe, including thick lead bulkheads fore and aft, removal of part of the floor structure, and massive reinforcement. To accommodate the huge power requirements of the radar, a J85 engine driving an accessory generator was fitted to a pod under the wing root. Under the opposite side in a similar pod was a heat exchanger unit (these are not visible in the profile because they are blocked by the inboard engines). The aircraft was lost over the Bering Sea in June 1969 with the loss of all aboard. The cause of the crash has never been determined. The scrap view shows her in her earlier natural metal finish with mission markings (later removed when she went through PDM and a repaint).

 


Review and Images Copyright 2002 by Jennings Heilig
Page Created 08 September, 2002
Last updated 08 September, 2002

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