BOEING EC-135N 61-0329 AT DF MALAN AIRPORT (ICAO CODE FACT) ON 15 FEBRUARY 1975
Cape Town was one of the staging bases used by Boeing EC-135Ns during the Apollo space programme and other test programmes. Consequently some of these aircraft were occasionally seen at DF Malan Airport (ICAO code FACT).
Overview of Boeing EC-135N and missions in which it was involved
Beginning in 1966 as part of the “Pacer Liner” programme, Douglas modified the first of eight Boeing C-135As into EC-135N Apollo Range Instrumented Aircraft (abbreviated ARIA), with the type’s first flight taking place on 19 September 1966. These aircraft were originally assigned to the Air Force Eastern Test Range at Patrick AFB, but were all reassigned in July 1975 to the 4950th Test Wing (4952nd Test Squadron) at Wright-Patterson AFB under the “Have Car” program.
EC-135Ns played an important role supporting the Apollo space missions in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Apollo support role comprised vehicle tracking and two-way voice relay between the astronauts and the mission director at the Manned Space Centre in Houston, Texas. Normally the aircraft were deployed over the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico for mission launch and over the Pacific Ocean for re-entry and splashdown. Other staging bases included Ascension Island, Pago Pago and Buenos Aires.
After the termination of the Apollo programme, the Boeing EC-135N ARIAs were renamed Advanced Range Instrumented Aircraft (but retained the ARIA abbreviation) and were dedicated to a variety of space and atmospheric test operations. Specific missions included cruise missile development and Operational Test and Evaluation flights, flights in support of the Space Shuttle and the Shuttle Inertial Upper Stage, tests of the US Army’s Pershing I and II battlefield missile, the Poseidon and Trident SLBMs, the Peacekeeper (MX) and Small ICBM (Midgetman) and a variety of Department of Defence space satellite operations.
History of Boeing EC-135N 61-0329
61-0329, which was originally built as a C-135A-02-BN (c/n 18236, Boeing model number 717-157), was one of eight C-135As that were converted to EC-135N standard. The machine was rolled out as a C-135A on 1 November 1961 and had its first flight on 1 December 1961. It was delivered to the USAF on 11 December 1961 and its USAF flyaway date was 12 December 1961. In 1967 this aircraft was converted to an EC-135N. In 1982 the aircraft was converted to an EC-135E. On 2 December 1983 the aircraft was re-engined. In addition to its ARIA role, it supported cruise-missile testing. The aircraft was written off in June 1996 (at which time it was assigned to the 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB) and sent to Tinker AFB, as a BDR aircraft (Battle Damage Repair aircraft). This particular aircraft was one of four ARIAs that were configured to carry the Northrop Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracking System (A-LOTS) pod (the others included serial numbers 61-0326 and 61-0327).
The data appears in the following sequence: title, author(s), published by, date
1 The USAF Today; Chris Pocock and Colin Smith; West London Aviation Group; 1975
2 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker; Robert F Dorr; Ian Allan Ltd; 1987
3 Boeing Aircraft since 1916; Peter M Bowers; Putnam; 1989
4 KC-135 Stratotanker in action; CM Reed, Don Greer and Joe Sewell; Squadron/Signal publications; 1991
5 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, “More than just a tanker”; Robert S Hopkins III; Aerofax; 1997
6 The Boeing 707, 720 and C-135; Tony Pither; Air-Britain; 1998
The information about the EC-135N and its missions, the history of 61-0329 as well as most of the information provided in the caption to the image are based on data obtained from Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. The AFSC information given in the caption was taken from The USAF Today. The other sources were used to verify various bits of data.
Boeing EC-135N 61-0329 ARIA was one of the aircraft that were configured to carry the Northrop ALOTS pod. Here the aircraft is illustrated at FACT (Cape Town, Ascension Island, Pago Pago and Buenos Aires were used as staging bases during the Apollo space programme and other test programmes). The EC-135Ns had J57-P/F-59W engines, where the “P” stood for engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, the “F” for those built by Ford Aerospace and the “W” indicated water injection as aid to augment thrust in their turbojet engines. Between 1967 and July 1975 the EC-135Ns were assigned to the 6549th Test Squadron of the 6550th Air Base Wing of the AFETR at Patrick AFB. Note the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) badge on the forward fuselage. The AFSC was responsible for the research, design, development, test, evaluation and the procurement and production of USAF aircraft, missiles and related hardware and had its headquarters at Andrews AFB. Most aircraft wore the AFSC crest and many wore the crest of the particular centre to which they belonged. Some centres had an individual fin marking. Also note the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA titles (upper fuselage), the USAF insignia and the figures “10329” and the US flag on the tailfin.
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