In 1981 the United States Air Force bought eight American Airlines Boeing 707-320C aircraft at a cost of around 1.5 million dollars each with the initial intent to modify four of these aircraft to replace four of the aging EC-135N ARIA Aircraft.
The CMMCA, Advanced Cruise Missile Mission Control Aircraft, was designed to reduce the number of aircraft required to support the Cruise Missile flight testing program. This reduction of support aircraft would provide substantial savings.
There were numerous differences between the Advanced CMMCA and the ARIA aircraft. The most obvious was the elongated radome that housed a smaller three foot dish antenna. The benefit of this configuration was that it allowed the aircraft to overtake the missile without reaching the maximum dish angle of the antenna. The larger seven foot dish antenna arrangement was more restrictive.
Aircraft 81-0893 and 81-0895 were modified for CMMCA. Originally, aircraft 81-0893 was retrofitted with a shorter radome due to the reduction in the size of the tracking antenna. Unfortunately, this shorter radome caused aerodynamic and transmittance problems. The corrected design was implemented in 1994.
The other large antenna in the Advanced CMMCA is part of the APG-63 radar, the same radar that was installed in the F-15 fighter aircraft. This radar was intended to allow positive tracking of the Cruise Missile and reduce the need for fighter safety chase planes. The APG-63 radar was never fully utilized. The mission equipment was eventually removed and the aircraft transferred into the Joint STARS program.
Capabilities as of 1996
EC18D - TLM/Advanced CMMCA - Being developed and optimized for cruise missile support
Written By: Randy L. Losey
Source: Chris Miller/Randy L. Losey