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3/21/2018 Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix - Wikipedia

Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix

The WC-135 Constant Phoenix is a special-purpose aircraft derived from the Boeing C-135 and used by the United
WC-135 Constant Phoenix
States Air Force. Its mission is to collect samples from the atmosphere for the purpose of detecting and identifying
nuclear explosions. It is also informally referred to as the "weather bird"[1] or "the sniffer" by workers on the program
and international media respectively.[2][3][4]

Operational history
Vela Incident A WC-135 Constant Phoenix approaching a
Pakistan & India tanker
North Korea Role Atmosphere testing related
Japan to nuclear incidents
Manufacturer Boeing Military Airplanes
Introduction December 1965
See also
Primary user United States Air Force
General Number built 10 original WC-135B, plus 1
External links converted former EC-135C.
Two aircraft currently in
active service

Operational history Developed from C-135 Stratolifter

Variants OC-135B Open Skies
The WC-135 was introduced in December 1965, replacing Boeing WB-50 aircraft in the weather-reconnaissance and
air-sampling mission.[5] Ten aircraft were initially converted from C-135B transport aircraft and were placed in service
with the 55th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at McClellan Air Force Base, California, with the Military Airlift Command (MAC). Detachments were located at various
bases throughout the United States and worldwide. The aircraft occasionally took on other roles throughout their careers; several aircraft were temporarily assigned to the
10th Airborne Command and Control Squadron at RAF Mildenhall in the late 1980s and early 1990s as training aircraft so that the unit could reduce the accumulation of flight
hours on its EC-135Hs,[6] while others served as staff transports on an as-needed basis.

While most aircraft were placed into storage in the early 1990s, three were retained for further use. Serial no. 61-2666 was converted to an NC-135 and remains in service as a
testbed for RC-135 equipment upgrades. Serial no. 61-2667 was upgraded to a WC-135W, given the project name Constant Phoenix, and remains in service with the 45th
Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Serial no. 61-2674 was converted to the first OC-135B Open Skies observation aircraft, reentering service in
1993. It was later stored in 1997 and replaced with two additional aircraft.

In 1998, a former EC-135C, serial no. 62-3582, was converted into a WC-135C, also designated Constant Phoenix.

The WC-135C and WC-135W Constant Phoenix atmospheric-collection aircraft support national-level intelligence consumers by collecting particulate debris and gaseous
effluents from accessible regions of the atmosphere in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

The Constant Phoenix’s modifications are primarily related to the aircraft's on-board atmospheric collection suite, which allows the mission crew to detect radioactive debris
"clouds" in real time. The aircraft is equipped with external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper and a compressor system for whole air samples collected
in high-pressure holding spheres. Despite the different designations, both the C and W carry the same mission equipment (similar to the RC-135V and W aircraft).

The interior seats 33 people, including the cockpit crew, maintenance personnel, and special equipment operators from the Air Force Technical Applications Center. On
operational sorties, the crew is minimized to just pilots, navigator, and special-equipment operators, to reduce radiation exposure to mission-essential personnel only.

Vela Incident
WC-135B aircraft flew 25 sorties in 1979 to try to ascertain whether a double flash in the South Atlantic that was detected by a Vela satellite was a nuclear weapons test,[7]
however, the result was inconclusive.

Pakistan & India

The Constant Phoenix aircraft was used to gather information on the nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan and India in 1998.

North Korea
On October 6, 2006, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported that a US military aircraft, equipped to detect radiation from a nuclear test, took off from southern Japan. This was
believed to be part of US efforts to prepare to monitor a North Korean nuclear test.

On October 9, 2006, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the country had performed a successful underground nuclear test.
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On October 13, 2006, CNN reported: "The U.S. Air Force flew a WC-135 Constant Phoenix atmospheric collection aircraft on Tuesday to collect air samples from the region. A
preliminary analysis of air samples from North Korea shows 'radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test', according to a statement from the office of the top
U.S. intelligence official. The statement, from the office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, was sent to Capitol Hill but not released publicly. CNN obtained
it from a congressional source. The national intelligence office statement said the air samples were collected Wednesday, and analysis found debris that would be consistent
with a nuclear test 'in the vicinity of Punggye' on Monday. The South Korean Defense Ministry told CNN that the United States has informed it that radioactivity has been
detected." The aircraft was based at Offutt AFB and was sent to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa to operate during the sampling missions.[8]

On June 17, 2009, JoongAng Daily reported, in reference to a purported May 25 nuclear test by North Korea: "The U.S. Air Force twice dispatched a special reconnaissance
jet, the WC-135 Constant Phoenix from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, to collect air samples."[9]

On November 23, 2010, Sankei Shimbun reported that a WC-135 had been moved to Kadena Air Base in September 2010, in anticipation of a North Korean nuclear test.[10]

On January 31, 2013, the WC-135W was reported to be conducting surveillance flights out of Kadena Air Base in anticipation of another North Korean nuclear test.[11]

On January 6, 2016, the United States Air Force confirmed plans to soon deploy the WC-135 to test for radiation near North Korea to examine North Korea's claim that they
had successfully conducted a hydrogen-bomb test on January 5 (EST).[12]

On September 8, 2016, it was reported that the WC-135 would soon begin surveillance flights near the Korean Peninsula[13] after South Korean officials confirmed that North
Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test at approximately 0:30 UTC.[14]

On April 12, 2017, it was deployed to Okinawa amid rising tensions with North Korea. North Korea conducted a missile test on April 3, 2017.[15]

On May 19, 2017, two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets intercepted a WC-135 over the East China Sea, prompting a formal complaint from the Pentagon.[16]

On March 17, 2011, CNN reported that the WC-135W had been deployed from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. From there it assisted in
detecting radioactive materials in the atmosphere around Japan, monitoring radioactivity released from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant caused by the magnitude 9.0
earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011.[17][18][19]

In 1986, the WC-135C was deployed to Europe to help monitor the air after the Chernobyl disaster.[20][21]

On February 17, 2017, it was reported that the WC-135C had been deployed to RAF Mildenhall. It was conjectured that this came in response to several reports of anomalous
levels of iodine-131 coming from the Norwegian-Russian Border. As of April 10, 2017, there was no official cause of the iodine-131 release.[22][23][24]

United States[25]

United States Air Force – Air Combat Command

55th Wing – Offutt AFB, Nebraska

45th Reconnaissance Squadron

General characteristics

Crew: varies with mission

Length: 139 ft 11 in (42.6 m)
Wingspan: 130 ft 10 in (39.9 m)
Height: 42 ft (12.8 m)
Wing area: 2,433 ft² (226 m²)
Max. takeoff weight: 300,500 lb (136,300 kg)
Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-5 (WC-135W); Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-9 (WC-135C) turbofan, 16,050 lbf (71.4 kN) each

Maximum speed: 350 KIAS (648 km/h)

Range: 4000 miles (6437 km)
Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,200 m)
Wing loading: 123.5 lb/ft² (603 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 0.21


See also

Related development

Boeing C-135 Stratolifter

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
Boeing OC-135B Open Skies

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3/21/2018 Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix - Wikipedia

Boeing RC-135

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


Related lists

List of active United States military aircraft

1. U.S. Air Force deploys WC-135 “nuclear sniffer” plane to Japan to monitor North 14. CNN, Katie Hunt, K. J. Kwon and Jason Hanna. "North Korea claims successful
Korea’s possible nuke weapons tests (https://theaviationist.com/2017/04/12/u-s-a test of nuclear warhead" (http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/08/asia/north-korea-seism
ir-force-deploys-wc-135-nuclear-sniffer-plane-to-japan-to-monitor-north-koreas-p ic-activity/index.html).
ossible-nuke-weapons-tests/) 15. "Nuke-sniffer aircraft arrives on Okinawa as tensions rise on Korean peninsula"
2. America's 'nuke sniffer' aircraft are deployed to Japan (http://www.dailymail.co.u (https://www.stripes.com/news/nuke-sniffer-aircraft-arrives-on-okinawa-as-tensio
k/news/article-4865664/America-s-nuke-sniffer-aircraft-deployed-Japan.html) ns-rise-on-korean-peninsula-1.463108#.WO5ehvnythE). Stars and Stripes.
3. Nuke Sniffer - Sputnik International (https://sputniknews.com/military/201704121 Retrieved 2017-04-12.
052583224-nuke-sniffer-arrives-in-okinawa/) 16. "Chinese fighter flies inverted over US Air Force jet" (http://edition.cnn.com/2017/
4. China denies intercept of 'nuke-sniffer' plane was unsafe, says U.S (https://www.j 05/18/politics/china-us-jets-intercept/). CNN. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
apantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/20/asia-pacific/china-denies-intercept-nuke-sniffer 17. "Japan quake tsunamiThis Just In" (http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/16/japan-
-plane-unsafe-says-u-s-must-halt-surveillance-flights/) quake-live-blog-death-toll-expected-to-rise-as-crews-reach-more-areas/?iref=alls
5. Harper, John. "WC-135 Constant Phoenix" (http://www.military.com/equipment/w earch). CNN. March 16, 2011.
c-135-constant-phoenix). 18. http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/03/16/6282458-us-boosts-
6. http://www.airliners.net/photo/USA---Air/Boeing-WC-135B-(717- radiation-sniffing-system
158)/0179969/&sid=303d598aa83843e9d7641307812557e1 19. "FOIA – 2011-0118/0119/012" (http://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1205/ML12052A249.p
7. "History of the Air Force Technical Applications Centre, Patrick Airforce Base, df) (PDF). Nuclear Regulatory Commission. January 26, 2012.
Florida: Volume 1" (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB190/15.pdf) 20. http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/constant-phoenix-after-decades-of-
(PDF). United States Airforce via National Security Archive. 2006-05-04. service-a-little-recognition-at-last/
Retrieved 2008-08-25. 21. "WC-135 Constant Phoenix > U.S. Air Force > Fact Sheet Display" (http://www.a
8. Timesonline.co.uk, Cold War aircraft searches the sky for proof of test (http://ww f.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104494/wc-135-constant-phoenix/).
w.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2398307,00.html). www.af.mil. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
9. joongangdaily.joins.com, U.S. finds that North test in May was nuclear (http://joon 22. "U.S. Air Force deploys WC-135 nuclear sniffer aircraft to UK as spike of
gangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2906243). radioactive Iodine levels is detected in Europe" (https://theaviationist.com/2017/0
10. "U.S. Moves Spy Aircraft in Preparation for N.Korean Nuke Test" (http://english.c 2/19/u-s-air-force-deploys-wc-135-nuclear-sniffer-aircraft-to-uk-after-spike-of-radi
hosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/11/24/2010112400941.html). The Chosun Ilbo oactive-iodine-levels-detected-in-europe/). The Aviationist. 2017-02-19.
(English Edition). 24 November 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2016. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
11. Park Hyun and Jeong Nam-ku (January 31, 2013). "Clinton still hoping North 23. Bertrand, Pierre (2017-02-23). "Europe baffled by "recent release" of radioactive
Korea won't conduct a nuclear test" (http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_ Iodine-131" (http://www.euronews.com/2017/02/23/europe-baffled-by-recent-rele
northkorea/572198.html). The Hankyoreh. Retrieved February 13, 2013. ase-of-radioactive-iodine-131). euronews. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
12. Lamothe, Dan (6 January 2016). "This is the Air Force radiation sniffer plane 24. Rogoway, Tyler. "Has There Been A "Nuclear Incident" In The Arctic?" (http://ww
deploying after North Korea's nuclear test" (https://www.washingtonpost.com/new w.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/7758/has-there-been-a-nuclear-incident-in-the-arcti
s/checkpoint/wp/2016/01/06/this-is-the-air-force-radiation-sniffing-plane-deployin c).
g-after-north-koreas-nuclear-test/). Washington Post. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 25. Pike, John. "55th Wing [55th WG]" (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/
13. CNN, Brad Lendon. "US to fly 'radiation sniffer' jet off Korea" (http://www.cnn.co usaf/55wg.htm).

This article incorporates public domain material (http://www.af.mil/Disclaimer.aspx) from the United States Air Force website http://www.af.mil (http://www.af.mil).

External links
USAF: WC-135 Constant Phoenix – Factsheet (https://web.archive.org/web/20090902193157/http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=192)
Airliners.net Boeing WC-135W (717-158) (http://www.airliners.net/open.file/777694/L/)
GlobalSecurity.org WC-135 page (http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/systems/constant_phoenix.htm)
Fas.org WC-135 page (https://fas.org/irp/program/collect/constant_phoenix.htm)
CNN coverage of Constant Phoenix and North Korean Nuclear Test (http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/10/14/nkorea.test.sample/index.html)

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