|Material supplied by
LTC Cecil (Sam) Steed Ret
Cmdr 4701st AEW&C Oct 53
Cmdr 965th AEW&C Sq Jan 66 -- Oct 66
SACRAMENTO BEE DECEMBER 22, 1953
By Tom Gaff
"It's the craziest airplane I've ever seen. I donít see how they get it off ground."
These and similar remarks from veteran air force officers and men heralded the arrival at the McClellan Air Force Base yesterday of the nationís newest aerial watchman, RC-121C.
First Of Kind
The plane. the first of it kind to be stationed anywhere in the
nation, actually is a flying
The planes are designed for long flights over the ocean to detect and warn of any possible attack, by air or sea, long before our present warning station would be able to find a target.
If an enemy should launch an attack toward the west the air force said, the new radar plane will provide several minutes more warning than would be available at present.
The craft's humped back and bulging midsection are radomes carrying vital and delicate radar instruments designed to measure the altitude, speed, strength and direction of approaching invaders, whether in the air or on the surface. Further equipment detects, and if desired, can interfere with enemy radar and other broadcasts.
The interior of the plane is just as unusual as the exterior. In addition to the latest electronic equipment, some of it so secret it had to be covered while newsmen inspected craft, full facilities are provided for a crew of 31. There bunks, which can be, converted davenports, seats are scientifically designed to reduce fatigue on long missions and there is a galley complete with running water and grills for cooking hot meals.
Continued on page 8, column 2
Plane' Flies Radar
Continued from page 1
Approximately one third of the crews will he off duty while the others are working so the bunks and easy chairs will get plenty of use once the plane start its, job of patrolling.
Speeds of more than 300 mile an hour can he obtained from the four 3,250 horsepower turbo compound engines, which power the new plane. Tip tanks will enable it to stay aloft on patrol for extremely long periods the air force is talking about two day missions.
Speed Exceeds 300 MPH
In addition to flying out to sea far beyond the range of fixed radar sites on shore, the new plane reaches altitudes which give its radar greater range than sea level units of similar power.
The plane's major duty will he to detect possible attackers but the air force adds it is believed the electronics equipment also will he very good for tracking weather disturbances and will give better and more far reaching storm warning service than now is available.
Operating Unit Is Named
At McClellan, the planes, and several similar ones as soon as they are delivered, will he operated by the 4701st Airborne Early Warning And Control Squadron.
The commanding officer is Lieutenant Colonel Russell E. Cheever, who flew the new plane in from Burbank yesterday.
The unit is a tenant organization at McClellan and is under ii,' direct command of the Western Air Defense Force headquartered at the Hamilton, Air force Base.
More than 350 officers and men have been assigned to the Squadron, most of them volunteers for the particular duty. A nucleus of the officers underwent several months training on the plane and the particular duties the squadron will be called upon to perform.
The squadrons will he expected to test out its own planes in interest of military expediency
In the past, new aircraft undergone extensive test under the Air Proving Ground Command before being
Assigned to a unit. Because the Airforce is in a hurry this time squadron will test the planes while they are in actual operation.
Three local men are officers of the newly activated Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron, McClellan AFB, which operates the Super-Constellation, RC-121-C, the "flying radar station" that cruises out over the Pacific Ocean. Left to right, they are Major Richard L Banning, 6505 Clara way; Lt. Colonel Russell E. Cheever, squadron commander, of 2511 La France drive, and Major Clarence Wiles. 3628 Wing way. The dope on how the "121" does its job is told in "HAVE YOU HEARD?"
around here who might have been Inclined to feel like sitting ducks in the event
of enemy attack, are feeling a lot safer these days when they look up into the
blue and see the Super-Constellation, RC-121-C, jogging its way over Lower
Suburbia. The -121" as we aircraft experts casually refer to It, Is the
"flying radar station" that is scheduled to scan western skies around
the clock, flying out above the Pacific Ocean, far beyond the range of fixed
Col. Cheever comes to McClellan Air Force Base from headquarters of the Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs. During World War II he served on Saipan with I the 73rd Bomber Wing under "Rosie" O'Donnell. Col. Cheever explains the workings of the Super-Constellation as follows
"If an enemy should attack toward the West Coast, the new USAF radar aircraft will spot the Invaders long before they reach present detection zones. Ultrahigh frequency radios will transmit enemy strength, direction, altitude, and speed to jet interceptors of the Air Defense Command, guide the defenders to their target, and direct the attack on it."
The most striking first-glance features of the RC-121-C is the humped back and bulging belly which have been added to the smooth silhouette of a Super-Constellation to make room for specialized search and communications equipment. An arched dome, eight feet high, protrudes from the top, above the wings, looking like the dorsal fin of a sailfish. This houses a height-finder radar antenna, to measure the altitude of an approaching enemy air fleet.
Under the fuselage bulges another dome carrying devices to detect the speed, strength, and direction of approaching Invaders, whether attacking by sea or air. Further equipment can detect, aryl if desired, interfere with enemy radar and other broadcasts.
The Interior of the plane is equally unusual. In addition to latest electronic equipment, full facilities are provided for a crew of 31 so that key men can be relieved at their posts during long flights. Bunks can be converted to davenports, seats are scientifically designed to reduce fatigue on long missions and the galley is complete with refrigerator, sink with running water, and grills for cooking I hot meals.
The new aircraft also reaches altitudes that give its radar greater range than sea-level units of similar power. It is also able to track weather disturbances and so improve storm warning services.
With all of this, and the cozy assurance it gives us, we offer a snappy military salute to the three local men who have the "121" and its activities under their wing.
Lesser members of the 4701st, as lesser members are wont to do. refer to their airplane as "the pregnant camel."
L to R.
M/GEN A. W. Vanaman Hq SMAMA
RC-121C Training Class