|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
Officially known as "Operation Looking Glass", at least 11 EC-135C command post aircraft were provided to the Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), and were based at various locations throughout the United States and worldwide. Operations began in 1961 with the 34th Air Refueling Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, initially using EC-135As (converted from KC-135As) until the dedicated EC-135Cs entered service in 1963 and 1964. The EC-135Cs were converted from the 17 new build KC-135Bs that were accepted by SAC but never entered squadron service as tankers. Other Offutt-based units included the 38th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (1966–1970), the 2d Airborne Command and Control Squadron (1970–1994), and the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (1994–1998).
On June 1, 1992, SAC was inactivated and replaced by the United States Strategic Command, which now controls the Looking Glass. On October 1, 1998, the Navy's E-6 Mercury TACAMO replaced the USAF's EC-135C in the Looking Glass mission. One former Looking Glass aircraft remains in service as a WC-135C Constant Phoenix.
This kit has much in common with Minicraft's other 135 kits and includes a different sprue for the EC-135C variant. This new sprue consists of four TF-33 engines, a number of upper fuselage antennas, which simply glue straight on, wing tip antennas and what looks like a trailing wire pod for the underside.
The rest is the basic airframe, the incorrect windows on the cockpit clear piece, the instructions that have you install the main gear on the wrong side and the main gear doors that are too tall to properly fit. You still need a half ounce to keep it from tail sitting and no stand is supplied, though Minicraft does sell a nice one separately.
Instructions are well done save for the item mentioned above, and you have decals for two planes. Both are in white over ADC grey with white fins. The decals sheet is nicely printed and provides all the wing walk and cheat lines. The markings will probably silver as they did on my KC-135R. The worker in China who tapes the waxed sheet over the decals must have had a long night as he missed the waxed sheet entirely. It will probably tear the sheet when I try to remove it. We'll see. One thing on this sheet is that they used the correct yellow for the under fuselage stripes. Note that the markings instructions don't show these stripes, but do show the decal numbers. You may want to prepaint the big 'saddle' antenna and attach that after painting as masking it will be a bit of a pain. The two markings options are for the box art plane from the 7th ACCS at Offutt AFB in 1998, and a slightly less glamorous plane with a white nose radome from the 9th ACCS at Hickham AFB in 1983. I may be in error, but I think that Wolfpak Decals has done at least one EC-135C on its many sheets.
This is a nice addition to Minicraft's large catalogue of 1/144 'heavies'. The end result will be a nice one, but you do have to pay attention when building it.
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