“New” 41-year old WB-57 Canberra joins NASA fleet of high altitude special operations aircraft

Sep 19 2013 - 7 Comments

On Sept. 12, NASA’s latest WB-57F, a 41-year old plane with registration N927NA arrived to Ellington Field, Texas, were it joined the other two flying WB-57Fs, NASA 926 and 928.

The aircraft arrived at its final destination after leaving the paint shop in Pinal Airpark Airport Marana, Arizona.

Based at Ellington Field, Texas, but often deployed to different bases, both within CONUS and abroad and, NASA’s Canberras conduct “special operations” alongside scientific research projects (on hurricanes, radiation impact on clouds, and so on).

In Afghanistan these unique aircraft have been used to test Northrop Grumman’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) a technological “gateway” system that allows aircraft with incompatible radio systems and datalinks to transfer information and communicate.

Even if the new aircraft has not been allocated to the BACN program yet, it is quite likely it will soon support its twin Canberras in high altitude relay missions above the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Image credit: Christopher A. Ebdon

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  • Tom Demerly

    That’s a beautiful and fascinating aircraft. Thanks for sharing- as always.

  • Al Sorensen

    Brings to mind project “Black Knight… Sister group to the Dragon Lady.

  • OG_Locc

    “Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN)”

    Greatest military acronym ever.

  • Cabbro

    I’ve seen and heard it take off in AFG..it has an incredible climb rate..

  • Christian J Heinbockel

    This has always been an exceptional looking aircraft. The long wing CIA version had about a 60,000 ft ceiling. Who originally built this aircraft?

    • Otto

      English Electric built the original versions and US company Martin licensed built many versions, used heavily during the early part of the Vietnam War as a tactical bomber.

  • Andrew Helsel

    I lived at KAF for a year NOV10-NOV11, and saw this thing all the time – it is actually very silent, contrary to user “Cabbro” below. There was a U-2 taking off at night that was louder than the French Mirage 2000 fleet (by far the loudest take off happened dozens of times during any given day), it ran exclusively on night missions along with the Long Wing running day or night; both flown with CIA oversight.

    My company, DynCorp, Intl., just finished the maintenance and retro-fit work. According to our own article, it has the full 60,000 ft ceiling ;)