Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link Weider History Group RSS feed Weider Subscriptions Historynet Home page

EC-121 Warning Star

By Carl O. Schuster 
Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: January 18, 2012 
Print Friendly
1 comment FONT +  FONT -

Click on bomber for expanded view. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)
Click on bomber for expanded view. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)

Based on the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation airliner, the EC-121 Warning Star carried the long-range and height-finding radars required to provide coverage and warning to U.S. aircraft operating over North Vietnam. The EC-121s initiated operations out of Tan Son Nhut Airport on April 16, 1965. Their value became apparent less than three months later, when an EC-121D vectored a USAF F-4 into position against a MiG-21 on July 10. Staging out of Da Nang, U.S. Navy EC-121Ks operated in the northern South China Sea, supplementing Seventh Fleet's positive identification radar advisory zone ship and carrier-based AEW radar coverage, and providing electronic and communications intelligence support.

The Warning Star entered production as Navy WV-2 "Willie Victors" in March 1954, and as Air Force RC-121s shortly thereafter. Both services had operational squadrons by May 1955. All the Warning Stars were re-designated EC-121s in 1962. Other versions employed in Vietnam included the EC-121R "Bat Cats" that briefly monitored sensor fields on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and operated as communications relay aircraft.

The last EC-121 models were delivered in 1958, and the majority to serve in Indochina were former Navy aircraft that had been turned over to the Air Force. Previously used to conduct "radar barrier" patrols to warn against Soviet strategic bombers flying across the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the planes were being retired when their services suddenly were required in Indochina. Spare parts were always a problem, and the air conditioning often proved insufficient. However, the EC-121 saw almost constant improvement during the war as microminiaturization, computer and communications technologies evolved.

Early EC-121s had difficulty tracking low-flying enemy aircraft, but the EC-121K "Rivet Top" that entered service in June 1967 solved that problem with equipment that could interrogate North Vietnam's Soviet-made IFF transponders.

The latest EC-121 variants with communications monitoring stations, digital data link equipment and automated tracking support systems began to enter the theater in 1971. Some even carried jamming equipment. Many historians consider this final Warning Star model to be the immediate precursor to today's Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. It could conduct air space management and air intercept control, warn of SAM activity and provide direct SIGINT support to strike packages as well as airborne early warning. The last USAF EC-121s were withdrawn from Indochina on August 15, 1973.

Published in April 2011 Vietnam magazine


One Response to “EC-121 Warning Star”


  1. 1
    Randy says:

    Actually, EC-121's were still in Korat, Thailand after January 1974. I can't remember the last date we were deployed there, but our flight crew was replaced in January 74.



Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


Related Articles


History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer
HISTORYNET READERS' POLL

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
STAY CONNECTED WITH US
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet?

The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by the Weider History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
Weider History Group

Weider History Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer! | StreamHistory.com
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2013 Weider History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy