USAF’s final WC-135R arrives at Offutt AFB

The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron (RS) – a component of the USAF’s 55th Wing – received its third and final WC-135R Constant Phoenix (64-14829/OF) when the aircraft touched down at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska on December 4, writes Tom Kaminski.

The arrival of this newly converted Constant Phoenix – pictured here on the ground at Offutt AFB shortly after its arrival – completes the squadron’s transition from the legacy WC-135C/W to the WC-135R. The move to the new modernized platform began when the first WC-135R (64-14836/OF) arrived at Offutt in July 2022, followed by the second aircraft (64-14831/OF) in May 2023.

USAF/Nicholas Harnack

The WC-135R fleet is tasked with global atmospheric collection missions and gathers particles, gas discharges and debris in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963. While operated by the 45th RS, the aircraft are also crewed by personnel from Detachment 1 of the Air Force Technical Application Center’s 21st Surveillance Squadron, which operates specialized equipment.

Initially delivered to the USAF as a KC-135 Stratotanker in 1964, WC-135R (64-14829/OF) was previously assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) at Goldwater ANGB in Phoenix. The aircraft’s modification from a KC-135R to the WC-135R configuration was managed by the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group under the ‘Big Safari’ programme, with work being carried out by L3Harris at its facility in Greenville,