Personnel with the Air Force Technical Applications Center’s Detachment 1 paid a visit to Patrick AFB, Fla., with a WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft to allow base personnel to tour the specially configured platform, announced Patrick officials on Nov. 6. Members of the detachment, based at Offutt AFB, Neb., control the nuclear-monitoring equipment onboard the Air Force’s two Constant Phoenix airframes. Offutt’s 45th Reconnaissance Squadron operates them. The WC-135s, in the inventory since 1965, are the only US airplanes that collect air samples to detect radioactive elements in the atmosphere as part of US compliance monitoring of international arms control agreements. The jet that visited Patrick on Oct. 25 was the one that flew missions to monitor radioactive emissions from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan in March 2011. Those samples “enabled our scientists to develop plume models that provided scientific evidence for senior leaders to make critical decisions regarding the evacuation of Americans in Japan,” said Lt. Col. John Baycura, detachment commander. (Patrick report by Susan A. Romano)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.