The intriguing story of USAF's nuclear particle hunters

For three decades, Constant Phoenix has sampled the atmosphere for nuclear particles. As the USAF’s last WC-135W faces retirement, Bob Archer reviews what could be its final UK deployment

The clue to the role of the WC-135W 61-2667 Constant Phoenix lies in its nickname: the ‘Nuke Sniffer’. Operated by the US Air Force’s (USAF) 55th Wing's 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, its task is to fly predetermined routes across the world to gather nuclear and irradiated particulates from the atmosphere for subsequent analysis.

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