1/72 AMT/ERTL EC-135C 

Looking Glass

by Tony Crews

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Though some may argue, you're looking at the representation of the most powerful aircraft in SAC's arsenal.  What does it fire you may ask?  Well, only about 500+ Minuteman III and 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs.  "Looking Glass" was the code word was taken from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass" for Strategic Air Command's Airborne Command Post.  The designation was to show that aboard the EC-135 was a mirror representation of SAC Headquarters and was able to perform and relay all message traffic during times of a national emergency.  Besides having quintuple-redundant communications, the ALCS (Airborne Launch Control Center) as it was better known to SAC Missile Crew members, was able to provide follow-on launch capability for America's ICBM fleet should anything prevent launch commands transmitted from the underground LCCs (Launch Control Centers) located across the American Mid-West and Great Plains.  The aircraft carried the same (basically) launch equipment as the capsules, but carried two sets of launch codes to ensure that missiles were launched when the Airborne Launch Crews "turned keys".  The commands were transmitted via a "brute-force" transmitter on board designed to penetrate the static and interference expected during and after a nuclear attack.  The "Glass" performed its duties faithfully from 1961, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, until the tensions between the Former Soviet Union and the United States subsided with the fall of the Communist government in 1991.  The aircraft continued its mission in modified shifts (no longer round the clock) through 1998, when United States Strategic Command, the successor to SAC, replaced it with the US Navy's E-6B Mercury or "TACAMO" (another 707/KC-135 airframe, with TACAMO standing for "Take Charge and Move Out" on behalf of our Marine Corps brethren's retired EC-130 Strategic Relay Aircraft.)  Though the TACAMO is manned entirely by a USN flight crew, the battle staff and launch officers are still U.S. Air Force personnel.

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The kit is from AMT/ERTL, and like most of it's line, it becomes a great product only after a tremendous amount of sanding and gap filling superglue.  Unfortunately, this particularly kit was warped and the entire nose had a patch of superglue to fill a 3 mm gap and required a complete rebuilding of the nose.  The fuselage was the hardest fit and required about 12 to 14 hours of dry fitting, sanding, and more dry fitting and more sanding.  The panel lines are recessed, so I was able to re-scribe them very easily, using a Verlinden scribing template.  I used Testors' White for the upper section of the A/C, with the remainder of the aircraft was painted Testors' Aircraft Gray.  I sprayed the white first, being the lighter of the two colors.  Following the painting of the base colors, I highlighted all the panel lines in the gray painted areas with a sharp #2 pencil to provide the right amount of depth to the kit.  However, the white areas only received a delicate brushing of my lightest gray pastel dust applied with a sharply-trimmed paint brush.   The toughest part of painting was masking the demarcation line between the white and gray along the fuselage, which I did with Pactra 1/16" masking tape to ensure a straight and accurate line.  Regular masking tape was then used to mask off the white portions before applying the second color.  This demarcation line is later covered using the black striping from the kit's decal sheet, but bear in mind that the black lines provided are only enough for the fuselage itself.  And naturally, I sprayed the entire kit in Future Floor Wax and allowed it to cure for 48 hours before applying any decals.  You'll have to construct the wing walkways using aftermarket sheets, such as Pacific Aeropress's wonderful line of black stripes, which is my recommendation.  One decal that I had to cannibalize was the refueling receptacle marking that AMT/ERTL conspicuously left off.  This was obtained from an old AMT/ERTL RC-135V RIVET JOINT decal sheet.  After completing the decal application, I let them dry for 24 hours, then sealed them with a few thin coats of Future Floorwax.  No flat coat was applied since the ALCS birds were always pristine and had high gloss finishes.  The anti-glare panel and the landing gear are the only sub-assemblies requiring a flat overcoat for realism and accuracy.  The last parts to be painted were the engines, which were carefully masked and sprayed with SnJ Spray Aluminum paint, then polished with SnJ Polishing Powder.

This kit was made for my former squadron commander and good friend, Col Greg Boyette, while we were stationed at Edwards AFB.  As a major, he was assigned to the 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (4 ACCS) and had served on every tail-number in SAC's inventory of EC-135s.  His sister originally bought him the kit as a memento but he had little experience in model building since his pre-Air Force days.  When he found out that I was a decent builder, he entrusted me with the kit and I did it with great pleasure.  It took a while to get it together, but he was overwhelmed with the results and now has it on display in his study until his new job allows him access to his office.  I was so pleased with the results, I bought two EC-135 kits; one to do as an ALCS version, and one converted into a KC-135E, with the latter nearly complete but will have to wait for another posting.

Tony

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Photos and text by Tony Crews