Lockheed EC-121D Constellation

The EC-121, originally designated as the RC-121, is a radar-picket modification of a USAF C-121 passenger airplane which evolved from the Lockheed "Constellation" commercial transport.  The massive radomes above and below the fuselage carry six tons of electronic gear.  These aircraft entered service with the Air Defense Command in 1953, flying patrols off the U.S. coasts as an aerial extension of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line.  The Air Force ordered 82 EC-121s between 1951 and 1955, 72 of which were -Ds.

In Southeast Asia, these unarmed radar aircraft aided in downing enemy planes, directed U.S. aircraft to their aerial refueling tankers and guided rescue planes to downed pilots.

The aircraft pictured here was nicknamed "Triple Nickel" because of its serial number (53-555).  On Oct. 24, 1967 over the Gulf of Tonkin, it guided a U.S. fighter by radar into position to destroy a Mig-21.  This was the first time a weapons controller aboard an airborne radar aircraft had ever directed a successful attack on an enemy plane.  "Triple Nickel" was retired to the Museum in 1971. 
(NMUSAF)

 

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