June 1956 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Although obviously (but
getting less so) before my time, the mention of this airborne radar surveillance
system having been built by
General Electric, in Utica, New York, struck a chord since
that is where I had my first engineering job after having graduated from the
University of Vermont with a BSEE degree. It seems to me the work at the time
was all done in the converted textile complex on Broad Street. They were the
of GE, Westinghouse, Collins, Raytheon,
and other electronics titans whose engineers, technicians, assemblers, and program
managers changed the world. The airplanes and equipment used here were precursors
to our modern
1956 must have been a big year for the General Electric plant in Utica, New
York, where I had my first engineering job right out of college, because I recently
Submarines - Are We Open to Sneak Attack? article that also
referenced the location.
Aboard a Radar Picket Plane
Two dozen men live and work together in
giant aircraft whose super radar system guards against sneak air attack
New and powerful, the airborne radar built by General Electric
is carried by this Lockheed long-range high-altitude reconnaissance scout, patterned
after the Super-Constellation transport (Navy designation, WV-2; Air Force designation,
RC-121). Radar antennas are mounted inside bubble-like structures ("radomes")
atop and below aircraft's fuselage. Both Navy and Air Force use giant planes
as flying radar stations off East and West coasts where they supplement the
"radar fences" that guard against sneak air attack.
Phantom view of radar plane shows main cabin where radar
operators monitor displays on screens. Rotating "dish" antennas are housed in
both upper and lower turrets. Information received is coordinated in Combat
Information Center aboard aircraft. This flying CIC can plot course of enemy
invaders and then direct our own fighter planes to repel any attack. According
to G.E., the radar is twice as powerful as any previous airborne search unit.
High-flying radar stations will extend the detection range
of existing land-based units whose beams do not bend over the horizon. Provisions
built into the equipment permit its use in anti-submarine action, aeronautical
weather reconnaissance, and navigational aid, in addition to its chief function
of aircraft detection. About six tons of electronic equipment are carried on
one plane, in addition to a crew of thirty men. At left is a special test rig
built by G.E. at Utica, N. Y.; this mock installation simulates setup on plane,
removes system's "bugs" before use in real situation is permitted.
Inside the main cabin, looking aft. Each operator is responsible
for observing a particular segment of the total area being scanned by the rotating
antennas. Weight and size of the equipment has been kept down, despite increased
power. Chassis are readily removed for easy inspection and quick maintenance.
Radar operator, one of a large team of observers, studies
screen of indicator 'scope. Displays on screen show "pictures" of distant planes,
giving range and bearing. In recent maneuvers, carrier-based fighter planes
played role of "enemy attackers" and were repelled by land-based fighters. "Enemy"
carrier was "sunk" by defenders using data supplied by radar plane, whose crew
never even saw the "attacking" carrier or its aircraft.
Information received on radar screens is coordinated and
verified in another part of the cabin. These men maintain radio contact with
other aircraft and with surface stations. Special apparatus automatically distinguishes
between friendly and enemy aircraft, is virtually foolproof. Often these planes
are used as part of a large force which includes blimps and ships.
Time out for coffee and ... A complete galley, as well as
bunks, helps keep the crew well-fed and refreshed. Staying high in the air for
24 hours or longer, each aircraft carries two crews for all stations. The double
staff assures that rested men are available at all limes for any emergency.
Planes work with each other and with ground forces.
Posted March 7, 2016