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EC-121 Constellation

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EC-121D #555 at the Air Force Museum


The EC-121 was flown by the 551 AEW&CON WG at Otis AFB MA and 552 AEW&CON WG at McClellan AFB CA. There was also a Squadron (966 AEW SQ) at McCoy AFB FLA. The Radar version was first designated as the RC-121C, then RC-121D. Then the Air Force changed the RC to EC and it was designated as the EC-121D. The RC-121C originally had the APS-20 and APS-45 radar's on board. Then in about 1962 the APS-20 (search radar) was replaced with the APS-95 radar. It had a range of 250 miles, operated at 405 MHz to 450 MHZ with  three Meg-watts peak-power out. The APS-45 (Height finder) had a range of 120 miles. Also, in about 1962 the 551 AEW converted the D model to the EC-121H. It was called ALRI (airborne long input). The airplane had a data processor on board and radar data was fed to the SAGE CENTER (Semi automatic ground environment) by a Radio Transmitter (AGDL & TDDL) and a steer-able antenna. The APS-45 was upgraded to the APS-103. More power and range. The EC-121Q had the APS-95 and APS-103 and was used by 966th at McCoy AFB. The 551st and 966th were deactivated on Dec. 31, 1969. The 552nd also flew the "T" model. The IFF data was fed to a computer and digitally displayed on a display console. Some of the "T" models had the upper radome removed and the height finder radar was replaced with special IFF gear. The 552nd distinguished its self over seas during the Viet Nam conflict, earning several AFOUAs. The outfit overseas was first known as Big Eye, then College Eye. They were flying out of Viet Nam then Thailand (southern operating location) and Itasuke AB (northern operating location). The main operating location was in Taiwan. Later they flew out of Kwanju Korea. While deployed overseas, the EC-121s carried Security Service personnel and equipment. The 552nd was deactivated at McClellan in Apr. 1976 and reactivated at Tinker AFB Jul. 1976. A Detachment was activated at Homestead AFB after the 552nd was deactivated (Det 1, 20 ADS until it closed in Oct 78)

There was also a Reserve unit at Homestead AFB that flew the EC-121 both "D" and "T" models (79th AEW&C Sq). All the above had unit deployments to Iceland (Keflavik) from about mid 1960s until the end, Oct. 1978, the last being the 79th AEW&C Sq and Det.1 20th ADS.

I flew on them as a radar tech at Otis from Jan 1963 through Aug. 1969 and at McClellan 1969 through Apr. 1976. Dean Boys

This page is dedicated to the Officers and Men who lost their lives flying Active Air Defense Missions over the North Atlantic on aircraft #136, 262 and 549. You are not forgotten.


Models and Types

Avenger2.jpg (36753 bytes) TBM-- The Navy equipped some Avengers with the APS-20 radar for use in defense   of the fleet against Kamikaze planes  
b29aew-1.jpg (15679 bytes)  WB-29-- In 1951 the Air Force equipped three B-29s with the APS-20 radar for testing as Airborne Early Warning aircraft
b17.jpg (24504 bytes) PB-1W--  Twenty Four B-17Gs were modified to carry the APS-20 radar for use by the Navy in early warning in 1945. They were to late for W.W.II but were used until 1955, when they were replaced by the WV-2
po-1.jpg (60055 bytes) PO-1W / WV-1 The Navy ordered two L-749A BuNos 124437 and 124438. They were equipped with radomes and  radar similar to the later WV-2s. In 1952 they were Redesigned WV-1 from PO-1W. In 1958 and 1959 they were transferred to the FAA. The radomes and radar were removed. Later they transferred to the airforce bearing civil tail numbers N1192 and N1206. N1206 still survives.

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C-121A--The US Air Force ordered ten C-121As in 1948. Only nine were built as first one on the production was plushed up to be "President" Dewey's Airplane. It was never used as Air Force One. It was designated as a VC-121B. Thus, the air force had a "B" model before it had an "A" model. The "A" tail numbers: 48-609 -- 617. In 1950 they were sent back to Lockheed to be upgraded to VC-121As to haul VIPs.

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VC-121B-- Air Force had one B model 48-608

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RC-121C--The U. S. Air Force had 10 RC-121Cs with Air Force serial numbers 51-3836 -- 3845. They later had the radar equipment and radomes removed and were re-designated TC-121C and EC-121C. One number 51-3840 was converted to a basic C-121C transport.
c-121c.jpg (23104 bytes) The Air Force had a transport version (Qty. 33) designated C-121C which included serial numbers 54-0151 /0183. The C-121C had Square widows while the RC-121C had round windows. C-121C ex-USAF 54-0156 (N73544) flying based at Camarillo owned by the Constellation Historical Society. C-121C 55-0157 was restored and is now flying in Australia.
jc-121c.jpg (108785 bytes) JC-121C-- Two C-121Cs, 54-0160 and 54-0178 plus one TC-121C, 51-3841 was converted to JC-121Cs for electronics testing and research.
od24-1.jpg (21124 bytes) EC-121D RC-121D--The Air Force had 73 RC-121Ds #s 52-3411 -- 3425 / 53-0533 -- 0556 / 53-3398 -- 3403 / 54-2304 -- 2308 / 55-0118 --0139. Also, one was obtained by modifying a C-121C. They were re-designated as EC-121Ds in 1962. Other EC-121D Images
nc-121d.jpg (120183 bytes) NC-121D -- WV-2 143226 was transferred to the Air Force and modified and used to measure radiation from the reentry of high speed bodies into the earth's atmosphere. The program was called Trap III. It was assigned serial number 56-6956. The airplane was nicknamed "Triple Nipple", because of the turrets that protruded through the top of the fuselage.
an31.jpg (36109 bytes) VC-121E--A single VC-121E, 53-7885 was modified on the production line from a Navy R7V1 to be used as a special VIP plane. It was used by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. When the president was on board, it was called Air Force One. Ike named the plane Columbine III after the state flower of Colorado. While in the army, Eisenhower had two other Connies as personal transports, all named Columbine. Columbine III is at Air Force Museum and Columbine II is in Tucson AZ. and still may be flying. (C-121A 48-0614) Gen. MacArthur had a personal plane named Battan. (48-0613--N422NA) It is preserved in flying condition at Planes of Fame Museum. 

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YC-121F--The Navy had four R7V-1s completed as R7V-2s with 6000 hp Pratt & Whitney T34-P-6 turbine engines. Two of these were transferred to the Air Force as YC-121Fs # 53-8157 and 53-8158
Rv71.jpg (62105 bytes) C-121G/R7V-1--The Navy transferred to the Air Force thirty-two of its fifty-one R7V-1s. The Air Force assigned the designation C-121G and a single block of serial.# 54-4048--4079.
052.gif (53411 bytes) TC-121G--Four C-121Gs, --54-4050 --4052 and 54-4058 were modified as crew trainers designated TC-121Gs. One became a VC-121G with plush interior for VIP passengers.
551134.jpg (30246 bytes) EC-121H -- Redesignation of 42 EC-121Ds after electronics upgrading in 1962. Seven WV-2 from the U.S. Navy were included in this upgrade and were given #s 55-5262 -- 55-5268. They had a data processor that fed data directly to the ground. It also carried two more crewmen, An ADP Tech and a NAV Tech Aircraft --53-0535 is in storage at Minden Aircraft near D-M AFB
Rv71.jpg (62105 bytes) C-121J -- The Navy ordered fifty cargo versions designated R7V-1. Thirty-two R7V-1s were transferred to the USAF which became C-121Gs. In 1962 the R7V-1 became C-121Js
noimage.jpg (2999 bytes) EC-121J --Two EC-121Ds 52-3416 and 55-0137 were upgraded with additional electronics. Both the USAF and US Navy had airplanes with the J designation.
4.GIF (79854 bytes) NC-121J--Four R7V-1/C-121Js were converted to NC-121J for use as airborne television transmitters in Viet Nam. A Number of others were converted and many were one of a kind. Some were used for "Black" psychological operations.
chanute.jpg (40466 bytes) EC-121K / WV2-- In 1954 the US Navy begin receiving the first of 142 Super Constellations designated as WV-2s. BuNos 126512, 126513, 128323 -- 128326, 131387 -- 131392, 135746 -- 135761, 137887 -- 137890, 141289 --141333, 143184 -- 143230, and 145924 --145941. In 1962 they were redesignated as EC-121Ks. EC-121Ks that have been preserved are number 137890 displayed as air force EC-121D 53-0552A at Tinker AFB OK, 141297 at Warner-Robbins AFB GA, 141309 displayed as Air Force EC-121D 03-0552 at McClellan AFB CA, 141311  at Rantoul IL, 143221 at Naval Air Museum Pensacola FL.
jc-121k.jpg (64072 bytes) JC-121K - EC-121K was used by the US Army for testing electronics. It had US Army marking but remained Navy property BuNo 143196
121-3.jpg (25639 bytes) NC-121K - Some EC-121Ks and YEC-121K which were extensively modified for special missions.  141292
noimage.jpg (2999 bytes) ENC-121K - One NC-121K 142192 was placed on exempt status.
yec121.jpg (38681 bytes) YEC-121K - One NC-121K, 128324 used as a test bed for new equipment.
wstar5.jpg (13439 bytes) EC-121L--A WV-2E with a roto-dome, later a similar roto-dome  was used on the AWACS E3 and Hawkeye E2. BuNo 125512
wstar4.jpg (11718 bytes) EC-121M - A few WV-2s were modified for ECM missions. They were designated as WV-2Q, then in 1962 designated as the EC-121M. BuNos 131390/392, 135747, 135749, 135751/752, 135757, 143186, 143209, 145927, 145936, 145940  135749 was shot down over the Sea of Japan in 1969
navy1.jpg (4201 bytes) WC-121N /WV-3 -- Eight WV-2s, BuNos 137391 -- 137898 were completed as weather reconnaissance planes. One WV-2, BuNo 141323 was modified after delivery as a ninth WV-3. In 1962 they were redesigned WC-121Ns.
143198 replaced 137891 after it was damaged in Hurricane Cleo. 145929 became MH-8. Both were assigned to VW-4, The Navy Hurricane Hunters
noimage.jpg (2999 bytes) EC-121P - Several EC-121Ks were upgraded with submarine detection equipment and designated EC-121Ps.
143200-jec-121p EX navy ec-121k used as radar test platform for awacs mid 60s.jpg (37587 bytes) JEC-121P - Three Navy EC-121Ps BuNos 143189, 143199, and 143200 were transferred to the US Air Force for testing. They retained their Navy Serial numbers.
q.jpg (65196 bytes) EC-121Q--Redesignation of EC-121Ds-- 53-0542, 53-0547, 55-0120 and 55-0128 after electronics upgrade (Height Finder and IFF ). Used for Gold Digger missions.
6721496l.jpg (104053 bytes) EC-121R --The Air Force converted thirty ex-Navy EC-121Ks and EC-121Ps into EC-121Rs. They had Serial numbers  67-21471 -- 21500. The radomes and the AEW equipment were removed and they were used as airborne relay stations to detect and transmit signals from air dropped seismic devices dropped behind enemy lines. Based at Korat RTAFB Thailand the Rs processed data received from Beech QU-22Bs, which was picked from seismic devices (called ADSID) planted along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.    67-21496 at DM AFB
3.GIF (26301 bytes) EC-121S Five C-121Cs 54-0155, -0159, -0164, -0170, and -0173 were converted to S models and flown by the Tactical Electronic Warfare Group of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Aircraft 54-0155 preserved at Lackland AFB TX
530548AL.JPG (88770 bytes) EC-121T -- The upgrade of electronics of fifteen EC-121Ds and seven EC-121Hs. They were used by the 552nd and the 79 AEW & CS until 1978. The following are preserved, --52-3417 Helena MT. --52-3418 Combat Air museum Topeka, KS -- 52-3425 Peterson AFB CO. -- 53-0548 Camarillo CA, Flying --53-0554 Pima Air Museum.

551st AEW&C WING
552nd AEW&C WING




551 552 553 JOINT REUNION RENO 2003


Pictures after rededication

Pictures of dedication taken by Leo Guenet

Other Connie Sites

Airline History museum The only Connie flying in a passenger configuration

Official Media and Blog Airline History Museum

Interior of 53-0555 taken by Jeff Glasser
in 1998 at Air Force museum

Navy's Role in Cold War Air Defense

Radar Museum
A museum without walls

Texas Towers


US Navy WV-2/EC-121 Units
Some info about the Navy units Here Soon.

Homepage of Lockheed Constellation N73544
and Constellation Historical Society (ex-54-0156)

Heller kit model 1/72 of an EC-121K
this can be modeled as an EC-121D using USAF decals
with a little modification it can be a T or H model

Wright R-3350-57 "Cyclone" Engine

The First Warning Star

Cockpit of C-121

APS-95 Receiver

Radar Techs Panel Photo Doug Fuller

Radar Techs Panel with Steve McKee

Interior of lower radome (APS-20 Antenna)

ACO 1 APA-159 Photo Doug Fuller

ACO 1 IP-229/APA-56 Original Scope


Cockpit of 548 Photo Doug Fuller

Crew Positions

553rd RECON Wg

553rd RECON WG   (Larry Westin's Page, Larry was former CIM on the

EC-121R crash at Otis 1969

Airborne Early Warning Association

Big Eye/College Eye

Connies at Kwangju

Peterson AFB Museum

52-3425 at Peterson AFB CO 2000

52-3425 at Peterson AFB CO 2005

E-3A and EC-121T at Kef.

Syd Pauls' WV-2 Pictures


 North American Air Defense  Modernization / North Warning System (NAADM / NWS) Reunion
 May 13 - 15, 2005
 Ottawa Canada
 Please see   for more info 

This year's reunion was held June 1-3 in Minneapolis, MN.  and the overall coordinator for us is Harry Miller.  His mailing address is 230 West Forest Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 02860-3318 and his phone number is (401)724-7278.  His email address is YAGR@MSN.COM

Radar Picket Ship USS TRACER AGR-15 home port Treasure Island

"All Squadron 'Willy Victor' Reunion"

The Willie Victors of the North Atlantic

Aviation photographs from Iceland

Goleta Air & Space Museum

Willie Victor Home Page

Navy EC-121M shoot down Time Magazine

The Worlds Best Tri-Motor

Gold Digger

Hunting Bear

Last Connie in Iceland

Last Connie Crew in Iceland and last AEW Mission Crew. Replaced by the E-3A from Tinker AFB in Oct. 1978.   Photo from Rick Sarno

Constellation on Fire

List of Military Connie crashes (total loss)

Preserved US Military Aircraft

USAF Constellation tail numbers 1951 -- 1967

"53-0552A" at Tinker not to be confused with 53-0552

54-0155 ---EC-121S at Lackland

52-3418 at Combat Air Museum


Early Warning Radar Resources  Links

The Secert Vietnam War by Jeff Glasser
Thailand Veterans Reunion at the Air Force Museum Contact Jeff Glasser

ALRI (Airborne Long Range Input)

Navy Pictures
The source for classic airliner photography

Raw video of  CONNIE 549 being ferried to Chino, CA





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AWACS Program Photo Gallery

961st AACS
962nd AACS


Robert F. Dorr

Climb aboard the president�s office in the sky

� Air Force One, the world�s most recognizable airplane. This book features a detailed examination of what makes this airplane so special, including its sophisticated communications, navigation, and defensive systems. Learn about how today�s 747 was built, and compare it to presidential aircraft of the past.

Book and ordering info

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AVIATION HISTORY MAGAZINE, have a story send it to this magazine
they publish stories from non-writers.


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Book Description
A revolutionary commercial propeller transport, the Lockheed Constellation burst on the aviation scene in the early 1940s. Unheralded for the most part due to wartime secrecy, it finally entered commercial service in 1946, and promptly set new standards for speed, range, reliability and passenger comfort.

The "Connie," as it was affectionately known, pioneered new flight paths in many parts of the globe. Connies ultimately flew commercially for more than thirty years, and underwent countless modifications and upgrades during that time. They continued to be utilized by the military as well; in fact, Connies were involved in a number of endeavors that remain shrouded in secrecy to this day.

This, then, is the story of a remarkable and distinctive airplane. It is also the story of the people who made the Constellation great, including aviation legends like Howard Hughes and Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. Most importantly, however, it is a story that sheds light on the dynamics of technology, politics and society over the course of four decades.

About the Author
Claude Luisada is a life-long aviation enthusiast, a past student pilot, a long-time member of the Civil Air Patrol and a freelance contributor to the first aerospace encyclopedia ever published. He currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Queen of the Skies the Lockheed Constellation Books Claude Luisada




More Guestbook Entries October 1997 -- January 1997

More Guestbook Entries #2

Return to Dean Boys Air Force Home Page

This page maintained by Msgt Dean W Boys ret
Any comments, corrections, additions, I am always looking
for pictures (aircraft, aircraft interiors, base scenes) and any
stories you may like to add to the page please

Sources of information for this page
Air Force Historical Records Archives
National Records and Historical Archives
James C Lawler
Barry Hall
Art Kerr
A.J. Northrup
Vic Gobbi
J D Batesole
Wes Mortensen  US Navy
Discovery Channel
History Channel
A&E Television

The Lockheed Constellation  -- M.J. Hardy isbn 0-668-02885-8
Lockheed Constellation  -- Austin J Brown isbn 0-7110-2182-1
Lockheed Constellation  -- Steve Pace isbn 0-7603-0303-7
Lockheed Constellation  -- Curtis K Stringfellow and Peter M Bowers isbn 0-87938-379-8
Lockheed C-121 Constellation  -- Steve Ginter isbn 0-942612-08-6
50 Years of The Desert Boneyard  -- Phillip D Chinnery isbn 0-7603-0187-5
The 388th Tactical Fighter Wing  -- Don Logan isbn 0-88740-798-6
Fifty Fallen Stars -- A. J. Northrup isbn: 0-9667486-0-3
Fifty Fallen Stars and Beyond     A. J. Northrup    ISBN   0-9667486-2-X
The Secert Vietnam War: The United States Air Force in Thailand 1961 to 1975 --
Jeff Glasser 
ISBN 0-7864-0084-6

UPDATED  --  November 22, 2013





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