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Out with the old, in with the new

  • Published
  • By 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Wing and the Air Force Technical Applications Center said goodbye to an aging antique and welcomed its refreshed replacement during a ceremony at the Lincoln Airport Sept. 7, 2022.

WC-135C/W tail number tail number 2667 was retired from service while WC-135R tail number 4836 was officially welcomed to the fleet.

“Today we say goodbye to tail 2667 and to the end of an era, as it is the last small motor jet in the Offutt inventory,” said Col. Derek Rachel, 55th Operations Group commander, who served as the presiding official. “And as we bring tail 667’s story to a close we look forward to the next chapter of the Constant Phoenix program with tail 4836.”

Tail 4836 is the first of three WC-135R deliveries to the Fightin’ Fifty Fifth, while tail 2667 is the last of the old WC-135C/W fleet to be retired.

Operated and maintained by the wing’s 45th Reconnaissance Squadron in support of AFTAC’s 21st Surveillance Squadron, Detachment 1 global mission, the WC fleet serves as the Air Force’s atmospheric collection aircraft.

“This is both a joyous day for us and also a little bit sad, because it’s an end of an era,” said Col. James Finlayson, AFTAC commander.

Originally delivered to the Air Force in 1964 and most recently flown by the New Hampshire Air National Guard, tail 4836 was modified to a WC-135R in Greenville, Texas, by the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group, better known as Big Safari.

It arrives to Offutt with a brand-new cockpit and the same four high bypass turbofan engines as the rest of the wing’s 135 fleet.

“What a beautiful aircraft,” Rachel said.

Previously a C-135B, tail 2667 was redesignated as a WC-135B in March 1966. It was then redesignated as a TC-135B in 1993 before becoming a WC-135C/W in 1994. It has more than 8,750 landings and more than 36,500 flying hours.

“She spent a lot of her time as a bounce bird, so you know she’s had a long, hard life,” Rachel said. “We are truly grateful for her service.’

A 45th RS aircrew will now fly the aircraft to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, for placement in permanent storage at the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center there.

As far as the next two WC-135R deliveries go, the second one is expected sometime this winter, with the third and final jet arriving in the summer of 2023.

“This unique mission has bright future as we enter a new era of global detection for our nation,” Finlayson said.