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Check Six: Lockheed NC-121K Warning Star

May 2, 2019

If you click on the photograph and when the Twitter page appears, click on it again. You will see two C-121s with Air Force markings in the background.

The Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star was an American Airborne early warning and control radar surveillance aircraft used from the 1950s by the United States Navy and United States Air Force.

This military version of the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation was designed to serve as an airborne early warning system to supplement the Distant Early Warning Line, using two large radomes, a vertical dome above and a horizontal one below the fuselage. Some EC-121s were also used for intelligence gathering (SIGINT).

It was introduced in 1954 and retired from service in 1978, although a single specially modified EW aircraft remained in service with the U.S. Navy until 1982.

The U.S. Navy versions when initially procured were designated WV-1 (PO-1W), WV-2, and WV-3. Warning Stars of the U.S. Air Force served during the Vietnam War as both electronic sensor monitors and as a forerunner to the Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS. U.S. Air Force aircrews adopted the civil nickname, “Connie” (diminutive of Constellation) as reference, while naval aircrews used the term “Willie Victor” based on a slang version of the NATO phonetic alphabet and the Navy’s pre-1962 “WV-” designations for the aircraft type.

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