Aircraft at a Glance
The original Navy designation for the airborne early warning version of the Warning Star was WV, prompting the crews to adopt the nickname “Willie Victor.”
During the Cold War WV/EC-121 aircraft “flew the barrier,” guarding the approaches to the United States against possible intrusions by Soviet bombers.
The paint scheme of the museum’s display airplane honors the WV/EC-121’s service in the weather reconnaissance role as part of the famed “Hurricane Hunters.”
An advanced version of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s highly successful Constellation, an aircraft that revolutionized the commercial airline industry and served in both the Army Air Forces/U.S. Air Force and the Navy, the Super Constellation boasted an extended fuselage and more powerful engines. The airplane retained its graceful lines and tri-tail configuration.
Like its predecessors, the “Super Connie” equipped airlines around the world and attracted the attention of the armed forces. The Navy was Lockheed’s first military customer for the new airplane, awarding its initial contract for the airplane on July 14, 1950, and eventually accepting delivery of 202 aircraft. These included transports to support the Navy’s element of the Military Air Transport Services, a photographic reconnaissance version assigned to Antarctic Development Squadron (VXE) 6 in its support of scientific work in the Antarctic, and versions used as airborne early warning (AEW) and weather reconnaissance platforms.
The latter, called the WV (redesignated EC-121 in 1962) Warning Star featured fuselages packed with electronic equipment for a crew of 26 and was equipped with AN/APS-20 air-search radar and AN/APS-45 height-finding radar. Thus, the “Willie Victors,” as they were known, included both ventral and dorsal radomes that gave them a unique and recognizable silhouette.
The airplanes performed a valuable mission during the Cold War as the United States established the Distant Early Warning Line as an electronic bulwark to detect the approach of long-range Soviet bombers. Operating over the Atlantic from bases in Newfoundland, Iceland and Greenland and covering the Pacific from Midway Atoll using refueling stations in Alaska, the Warning Stars “flew the barrier” on lengthy missions.
A total of 142 “Willie Victors,” including the museum’s example, were delivered, to the Navy. Nine were modified for service with Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (VW) 4, the Navy’s heralded “Hurricane Hunters,” whose crews flew into the middle of approaching storms to obtain important data that helped meteorologists forecast storm tracks.
The museum’s aircraft is painted in the markings of a VW-4 airplane complete with nose markings indicating a flight into Hurricane Brenda. The airplane actually spent the majority of its career in the training role, helping familiarize prospective naval flight officers with radar equipment during assigned to Training Squadron (VT) 86 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Glynco, GA.
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Dimensions: Length: 116 ft., 2 in.; Height: 27 ft.; Wingspan: 126 ft., 2 in.; Weights: Empty: 80,611 lb.; Gross: 143,600 lb.
Power Plant: Four 3,400 horsepower Wright R-3350-34 or –42 engines
Performance: Maximum Speed: 321 M.P.H. at 20,000 ft.; Service ceiling: 20,600 ft.; Range: 4,600 miles