December 3, 2001: EC-135C “Big Crow” Returns From International Testing

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

By this day, the EC-135C “Big Crow” and its support crew (Det 2, 418 FLTS; Det 1, 370 FLTS) have returned to the continental United States. While in theater, the Big Crow aircraft had supported military operations based out of Thumrait, Oman. All told, the aircraft conducted 15 electronic combat sorties in direct support of Task Force Sword and of Information Operations (IO), disrupting Taliban / al Qaeda communications (bandwidth jamming, etc.) and performing psychological operations (PSYOP). Total flight time logged was 159 hours. The actual missions were conducted by 418 FLTS and 370 FLTS personnel. The U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) was very pleased with results of operations.

The Boeing NC-135 and NKC-135 are special versions of the Boeing C-135 Stratolifter and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker modified to operate on several different programs.   Big Crow is the designation of the two NKC-135 test-bed aircraft (55-3132 and 63-8050) heavily modified for electronic warfare testing. These planes were also used as a target simulator for flight testing the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser.  On March 15, 2007, the YAL-1 successfully fired this laser in flight, hitting its target. The target was the NKC-135E Big Crow 1 test aircraft that had been specially modified with a "signboard" target on its fuselage. The test validated the system's ability to track an airborne target and measure and compensate for atmospheric distortion.  Big Crow aircraft are also used as downrange telemetry assets in conjunction with Western Launch and Test Range launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  Since 2008, 55-3132 and 63-8050 have been retired, and relegated to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG),  Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ.



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