79th AEW&C SQ

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The 79AEW&C Squadron Reserve Unit was activated at Homestead AFB in about 1972. They flew the EC-121D & T. They were deactivated in late 1978. They had a lot of deployments to Iceland. One airplane 55-0121 burned up after its left gear collapsed. Several people from the 552nd transferred to the unit in a program called Palace Chase. I flew on few missions out of Homestead and we had the unique experience of being on blocked by a union crew. The reserve technician who was blocking us said "you must be able to start all engine before a certain time as our break will start, union rules you know"

As was announced on 8 Dec. 1975, Detachment 1 of the 20th Air Defense Squadron will activate at Homestead AFB, Florida during the spring of 1976. Det 1 will be comprised of approximately 310 men, most of whom will be reassigned from the deactivating 552nd AEW&C Gp at McClellan AFB. The new unit will fly Connies in an associate unit arrangement with the 79th AEW&C Sq, U. S. Air Force Reserve. The 79th is the Only Reserve unit equipped with the EC-121.

The combined force will be used for Southeast U. S. radar mission, maintaining a TDY force of EC-121 aircraft in Iceland for support of NATO and other special missions as specified by the Department of Defense.

Headquarters for the 20th ADS is at Ft. Lee, Virginia, and will provide the administrative headquarters for the new unit. The 79th AEW&C Sq will assume control of the personnel and aircraft for training purposes. Aircrew and aircraft will be deployed under the appropriate unified or specified commander. This realignment of forces is in accordance with the Defense Department's total force policy. (note Det 1 was deactivated in Oct 1978)

New early warning mission has familiar past

Released: 6 Jul 1999

by Dr. Kenneth C. Kan
Air Force Reserve Command Historical Services

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- Air Force Reserve Command's airborne warning and control system mission at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., is only three years old, but reservists flew a similar early warning and control mission in the 1970s.

On July 30, 1971, Air Force Reserve headquarters here redesignated the 79th Military Airlift Squadron, Homestead AFB, Fla., as the 79th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron, and replaced its C-124 cargo planes with EC-121D's.

Today, the Reserve's 513th Air Control Group and its 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron fly and maintain E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft at Tinker with an active-duty unit. The Reserve associate unit announced its initial operational capability March 8. Two months later, selected group personnel were mobilized to support U.S. military operations overseas.

The EC-121D, with radomes on top and below the aircraft fuselage and six tons of electronic surveillance equipment, was a modified Air Force C-121 passenger aircraft, the military version of Lockheed's Constellation commercial plane. The 79th AEW&CS mission was to provide "airborne radar surveillance and tactical control of air defense weapons" for "air defense and contingency operations."

Initially, squadron aircrews flew missions in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. In 1974, the 79th AEW&CS converted to EC-121T's and sent its "D" models off to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

In 1976, the Reserve early warning program underwent significant changes. At the time, the Air Force wished to terminate for economy purposes its EC-121 Iceland mission. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, however, requested that the Air Force continue the mission pending other arrangements due to State Department concerns that without the EC-121 presence, Iceland would not have any warning of airspace intrusions. Accordingly, the Air Force assigned the 79th AEW&CS responsibility for flying missions out of Keflavik, Iceland, on a rotational basis.

The Aerospace Defense Command activated Detachment 1 of the 20th Air Defense Squadron on March 1, 1976, at Homestead to support the Reserve effort.

This augmentation by active-duty aircrews and support personnel in effect became an active associate program, the reverse of the Reserve associate program begun in 1968. Reserve associate flying units do not own their own aircraft; instead unit personnel fly and maintain those belonging to collocated active-duty units.

On Dec. 1, 1976, the Reserve activated the 915th Airborne Early Warning and Control Group at Homestead to provide control and command supervision over the 79th AEW&CS.

In 1978, the Air Force ended the EC-121 Iceland and Florida missions once E-3A AWACS aircraft entered the aircraft inventory. On Oct. 1, 1978, except for maintaining one EC-121 on station in Iceland for another six weeks to accommodate E-3A delivery delays, the Air Force Reserve began converting its EC-121 units to fighter operations. Effective that date, Air Force Reserve redesignated the 915th AEW&CG as a tactical fighter group and inactivated the 79th AEW&CS,
replacing it at Homestead with the 93rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, the Reserve's first F-4C equipped unit. (Courtesy of AFRC News Service)


As I was just reading your story on the last days in Iceland, I noticed you have the story slightly wrong. The last three planes all left the same week. No plane remained for 5 weeks as your story says. I left on the third-last plane, the second-last left the next day, and the last 1-2 days later. Each was welcomed back at Homestead with a big welcome party pretty much on successive nights. In fact, Capt Steve Welde (nav on the last crew with Jerry Hoff) and I PCSd to Dover together about three weeks later around 1 Nov 78 to fly C-5s. If he had remained 5 more weeks, he would have missed his RNLT date at Dover.

On a side note, even before they left, one of the two AWACS was grounded with a serious hydraulic problem. After all Connies left, the whole AWACS fleet was grounded and a Shackleton from 8 Squadron, RAF Loosemouth, Scotland came over to Iceland to pick up the alert.

Embarrassing for the AWACS!

Take Care,

Lt Col Craig Vara


Last Connie Crew in Iceland and last AEW Mission Crew
Replaced by the E-3A from Tinker AFB in Oct. 1978

Last Connie (55-0122) on run up, notice TWA Markings


Just a couple of notes ref the image links you recently added to the bottom
of the 79th's page.

Specifically, on the picture of 0122 on the run-up pad, please note not only
the "TWA" on its fuselage, but also the familiar checker-board tail flash of
the 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which flew the F-4E, and two Jolly
Green Giant footprints on either side of the window on the aft cabin
entrance door, courtesy of Detachment 14, 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery
Squadron, flying the HH-3E.
Also, on the flyby picture, as I recall 0122 had taken off to the west from
Kef, joined up with the two 57 FIS F-4E's and flown back to the east in
formation, crossing pretty much directly over Hangar 885, home of the H-3's
and EC-121's at Kef. A truly awesome sight!

Mike Nelson

Old H-3 Driver
Sep '77 - Feb '79 Det 14, 67th ARRS, Keflavik
Aug '79 - Jan '82 71 ARRS, Elmendorf
Jan '82 - Feb '83 38 ARRS, Osan

Last Connie flyover with F-4s

E3A and EC-1221T at Kef.


Article about 55-0121 in the
Aerospace Safety July 1978

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