Boeing EC-135

1st Flight 1961

The Boeing EC-135 is a retired family of command and control aircraft derived from the Boeing C-135 Stratolifter.

During the Cold War, the EC-135 was best known for being modified to perform the Looking Glass mission where one EC-135 was always airborne 24 hours a day to serve as flying command post for the Strategic Air Command in the event of nuclear war.

Various other EC-135 aircraft sat on airborne and ground alert throughout the Cold War, with the last EC-135C being retired in 1998.

The EC-135N variant served as the tracking aircraft for the Apollo program.

Variants

EC-135A

KC-135A modified for airborne national command post role.

Later performed Airborne Launch Control Centre mission with the Airborne Launch Control System.

EC-135B

C-135B modified with large nose for ARIA mission

EC-135C

Re designated KC-135B to EC-135C for airborne command post role, “Looking Glass”

EC-135E

Re engined EC-135N, “Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft” or “ARIA”

EC-135G

KC-135A modified for airborne national command post role.

Later performed Airborne Launch Control Centre mission with the Airborne Launch Control System.

EC-135H

KC-135A modified for airborne national command post role, “Silk Purse”

EC-135J

KC-135B modified for airborne national command post role, “Nightwatch”

EC-135K

KC-135A modified for deployment control duties, “Head Dancer”

EC-135L

KC-135A modified for radio relay and amplitude modulation dropout capability “Cover All”

EC-135N

ARIA aircraft with the so-called “droop snoot” radome housing a large parabolic telemetry gathering antenna.

EC-135J/P

KC-135A modified for airborne command post role, “Blue Eagle” and “Scope Light”

EC-135Y

NKC-135 reconfigured as C3 aircraft for Commander-in-Chief, United States Central Command

Specifications

The crew consisted of two pilots, a navigator, an airborne refuelling systems operator, and communications systems operators.

Length

136 ft 3 in (41.53 m)

Wingspan

130 ft 10 in (39.88 m)

Height

41 ft 8 in (12.70 m)

Wing area

2,433 sq ft (226 m2)

Empty weight

98,466 lb (44,663 kg) 

Empty operating weight

124,000 lb (56,200 kg)

Gross weight

297,000 lb (135,000 kg)

Max take-off weight

322,500 lb (146,000 kg)

Powerplant

4 × 4 Pratt & Whitney TF-33-PW-102 low-bypass turbofan engines , 18,000 lbf (80 kN) thrust each

Performance

Maximum speed

580 mph (933 km/h, 500 kn)

Range

3,450 mi (5,550 km, 3,000 nmi)

Service ceiling

50,000 ft (15,200 m)

Rate of climb

4,900 ft/min (25 m/s) 1,490 m/min.

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