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Air Force Deploys Radiation Sniffing Jet to Japan

by John Reed on March 18, 2011

So, it’s being reported that the Air Force has sent one of its WC-135 Constant Phoenix jets to Japan to figure out just how much radiation is seeping from the nuclear reactors. They do this by deliberately flying through radioactive clouds and scooping up air samples to be analyzed. The jet’s mission, famously ordered by then Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in 1947, is to detect and analyze nuclear events around the world. At one time as many as ten of the planes prowled the skies, almost literally sniffing around for evidence of nuclear weapons tests by the Soviet Union and numerous other nations. The current fleet of two Boeing C-135 Stratolifter-based birds, a WC-135W and WC-135B have been used to monitor nuclear events everywhere from India and Pakistan to North Korea. This information could be used to verify reports that Japan’s nuclear problems are worse than Tokyo has been letting on.

Here’s what a spokesman from U.S. Forces Japan told Defense Tech about the plane’s deployment:

The WC-135 is one asset we are using in support of operations in
Japan. We are also flying airborne systems on the outside of some of our
helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes in order to monitor activity in the
area. Where we encounter radiological effects, we report those broadly,
both within our own forces and to the Japanese.

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