Airborne Awesomosity

Lockheed Warning Star: Connie Gets Mean

In the early days of the Cold War knowing when the commies would come over the North Pole with their bombs and imperial intentions was a very high priority for the military. We built the Distant Early Warning Line of radar installations that would let SAC know to scramble interceptors and let the Secret Service know to get the President down to the bunker. However, that row of radar in northern Canada was limited to watching the sky over land. What if the Soviets came around over the ocean?

That’s where the Lockheed Warning Star comes in. A Constellation fitted with a ventral and dorsal radar domes, the EC-121 Warning Star would fly around over the norther Atlantic and northern Pacific Oceans to watch for the Red Hordes. With its AN/APS-45 height finder radar on its back and its AN/APS-20 air search radar on its belly, they were the pinnacle of flying radar technology in 1953. They also proved that flying around with external radar was possible…with some modifications to the airframe.

The Warning Star was used by the Navy and Air Force. The Air Force used them all the way up until the Vietnam War where it paved the way for the Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS. The Navy kept theirs flying until 1982 as SIGINT aircraft.

[Image Credit: X-Ray Delta One]

  • The Professor

    The antennas in the radomes were mobile, correct? So how were they oriented, do you know? With the narrow domes it looks they would do a side-to-side sweep, or maybe a nose-to-tail sweep. What kind of coverage did they have?
    I'm just a curious guy today, I guess.

    • The top one appears to do an up-down sweep over some area. The bottom one was side-to-side.

  • aastrovan

    President Eisenhower had a Constellation ,it was named "Columbine".
    I am now officially out of trivia.

  • Earles McCaul

    In USN variants, the upper radome held the APS-45 (9375 MHz) "Height Finding" Radar, the lower radome held the APS-20 (2880 MHz) "Search" Radar. The USAF initially used the same radar systems, but later upgraded to the APS-95 "Search" Radar.

    • Lou Rossi

      Earles McCaul, You are right the APS 45 Was a Height Finder and also could search at close targets.
      The Air Force Planes also had a APS 42 Weather Radar i the nose of the Connie. The APS 42 was used by the Flieght deck.