C-130 aircraft on the Eastern Test Range


A variety of aircraft have operated on the Eastern Range. They provided missile tracking data in areas of the Range that ground stations could not cover, astronaut rescue services, air/sea surveillance and cargo/passenger transport. Some aircraft were also deployed outside of the Eastern Test Range in support of the manned spaceflight program and other special missions.


  • Used in the 1950s
  • Replaced by the C-130s
  • Nine C-54 aircraft supported the Range


  • Telemetry aircraft
  • 15 September 1960 – Loaned to Western Test Range to support Discoverer XV reentry capsule


  • Equipped for terminal (to splash) telemetry, frequency control, search, weather and instrumentation checkout missions
  • Modified C-131B aircraft
  • 1954 – Conversion of six C-131B to detect and locate reentering missile nose cones


  • Equipped for telemetry
  • C-band transponder, electronic search, visual search, and communication
  • 1961/1962 – Eleven C-130 were modified and assigned to the Range


  • Used to simulate and track Snark missile flight


  • Supported the Bomarc project


  • Simulated Snark missile flight


  • Primarily used for visual weather reconnaissance and instrumentation checkout


  • 28 April 1967 – Decision was made to use a C-135B as Telemetry Range Instrumentation Aircraft (TRIA)
  • C-135B appearance was identical to the EC-135N

EC-135E/N; EC-18B

  • Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA)
  • Used as flexible airborne telemetry data recording and relay stations
  • January 1967 – Eight C-135 were modified to six EC-135N and two EC-135E and called Apollo/Range Instrumentation Aircraft (A/RIA)
  • The strange looking “droop snoot” nose carried a 7 foot parabolic dish used for telemetry and communications reception
  • Cost was $32 million for the project
  • 25 August 1967 – The first ARIA aircraft, a modified EC-135N, arrived at Patrick Air Force Base
  • December 1975 – After the Apollo program ended, aircraft were renamed Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA)
  • Numerous conversions occurred and the aircraft became EC-135E
  • 1982 – USAF bought eight 707-320C, modified them into ARIA configurations and designated them EC-18B
  • The EC-18B is larger than the EC-135E
  • 24 August 2001 – ARIA missions ended


  • Also Known As: Airborne Astrographic Camera Systems (AAC)
  • Two AACS supported the Range
  • November 1965 – Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracking System (ALOTS) was added to provide launch area coverage


  • Also Known As: Orion
  • Provided telemetry and replay station for Trident missions


  • Also Known As: Jolly Green Giant
  • Helicopter provided Range support for Shuttle flights
  • Assigned to 920th Rescue Wing


  • Also Known As: Pave Hawk
  • Helicopter replaced the HH-3E for Space Shuttle support
  • Assigned to 920th Rescue Wing
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