Cold War-era airborne command center to be restored

The Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, is restoring one of the ‘Looking Glass’ aircraft, which were used during the Cold War as airborne command centers.

The EC-135C aircraft were built to act as airborne command centers, so that  commanders could continue to direct military action should there be a nuclear war and command centers on the ground be destroyed or made unusable.

The plan to build the airborne command centers began in 1961. The project’s codename was Looking Glass, which went on to become the nickname for the aircraft themselves. They were developed at the Strategic Air Command  headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in -Nebraska.

The aircraft remained in operation throughout the Cold War and were decommissioned in 1990.

The crews had to be highly trained to fly the Looking Glass command centers and they were constantly on guard to expect an alert, throughout the time they were in service.

The final Looking Glass mission was flown by General Jack Chain from the US Air Force in 1990.

The museum’s restoration project will potentially cost in excess of $200,000 and so the museum is launching a program of fundraising events and campaigns to help raise the funds. This is the largest aircraft restoration project the museum has ever undertaken and once completed it will be the only fully restored Looking Glass aircraft on display anywhere in the world.

To start the campaign, the museum is displaying the aircraft as it is before restoration , along with its plans for the restoration project. The display will last one day only, on 13th March from 4pm-6pm, the Fremont Tribune reports.

Once on display, the museum hopes that visitors will actually be able to walk through the aircraft. There will also be an accompanying exhibition with historical artefacts, documents and stories from the Cold War era.

The project has been initiated because a large contingent of officers and crew members who flew the aircraft wanted to preserve its role in the history of the Cold War. The museum would also like to focus more on the role and history of the Strategic Air Command, particularly on the Cold War.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE