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Support Aircraft for the Eastern Range

C-130 aircraft on the Eastern Test Range

A variety of aircraft have operated on the Eastern Range. They provided missile tracking data in areas of the Range that ground stations could not cover, astronaut rescue services, air/sea surveillance and cargo/passenger transport. Some aircraft were also deployed outside of the Eastern Test Range in support of the manned spaceflight program and other special missions.

C-54C

  • Used in the 1950s
  • Replaced by the C-130s
  • Nine C-54 aircraft supported the Range

JC-54

  • Telemetry aircraft
  • 15 September 1960 - Loaned to Western Test Range to support Discoverer XV reentry capsule

JC-131B

  • Equipped for terminal (to splash) telemetry, frequency control, search, weather and instrumentation checkout missions
  • Modified C-131B aircraft
  • 1954 - Conversion of six C-131B to detect and locate reentering missile nose cones

JC-130A

  • Equipped for telemetry
  • C-band transponder, electronic search, visual search, and communication
  • 1961/1962 - Eleven C-130 were modified and assigned to the Range

F-89

  • Used to simulate and track Snark missile flight

F-94B/624N

  • Supported the Bomarc project

B-45

  • Simulated Snark missile flight

JB-57B

  • Primarily used for visual weather reconnaissance and instrumentation checkout

C-135B

  • 28 April 1967 - Decision was made to use a C-135B as Telemetry Range Instrumentation Aircraft (TRIA)
  • C-135B appearance was identical to the EC-135N

EC-135E/N; EC-18B

  • Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA)
  • Used as flexible airborne telemetry data recording and relay stations
  • January 1967 - Eight C-135 were modified to six EC-135N and two EC-135E and called Apollo/Range Instrumentation Aircraft (A/RIA)
  • The strange looking “droop snoot” nose carried a 7 foot parabolic dish used for telemetry and communications reception
  • Cost was $32 million for the project
  • 25 August 1967 - The first ARIA aircraft, a modified EC-135N, arrived at Patrick Air Force Base
  • December 1975 - After the Apollo program ended, aircraft were renamed Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA)
  • Numerous conversions occurred and the aircraft became EC-135E
  • 1982 - USAF bought eight 707-320C, modified them into ARIA configurations and designated them EC-18B
  • The EC-18B is larger than the EC-135E
  • 24 August 2001 - ARIA missions ended

NKC-135A

  • Also Known As: Airborne Astrographic Camera Systems (AAC)
  • Two AACS supported the Range
  • November 1965 - Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracking System (ALOTS) was added to provide launch area coverage

NP-3D

  • Also Known As: Orion
  • Provided telemetry and replay station for Trident missions

HH-3E

  • Also Known As: Jolly Green Giant
  • Helicopter provided Range support for Shuttle flights
  • Assigned to 920th Rescue Wing

HH-60

  • Also Known As: Pave Hawk
  • Helicopter replaced the HH-3E for Space Shuttle support
  • Assigned to 920th Rescue Wing