1/136 Monogram NC-121k Warning Star

Gallery Article by Carmel J Attard



NC-121k Warning Star of VAQ-33

There was a time when increasing emphasis being placed on the electronic role of US Navy Squadron VAQ-33 that later became VAW-33. The title was rather misleading for it indicated that the unit was engaged in early warning rather than electronic countermeasure, as was in fact the case. Nevertheless the squadron did later acquire a substantial number of AD-5W Skyraiders and two EC-1A Traders. The squadron continued to provide ECM detachment to Atlantic Fleet carriers throughout the 60s and the appearance of the EKA-3B Skywarriors towards the end of the decade entailed their activities. By early 1969 the future for the Night Hawks squadron faded following the formation of specialist tactical electronic warfare Squadron 33 (VAQ-33).

Shortly after this in April the last EA-1F detachment reported aboard the USS John F Kennedy for this carrier’s maiden cruise to the Mediterranean. During this cruise the carrier made a port call at the Grand Harbour in Malta and put its AEW Skyraiders at Luqa airfield. This was EA-1F Skyraider Bo No132506/AB-752 which was one of three aircraft operated by Carrier Air Wing-1. These were in fact the last Skyraiders to see operational service aboard US Carriers. 

VAQ-33 soon found a new lease of life in the important training role after it moved to Norfolk, Virginia. This provided training to sea and air units of the fleet. This also brought much-needed new equipment in the shapes of Douglas Skywarrior and Skyhawk. A single NC-121K Warning Star was also obtained and the three types were later joined by a few Phantoms. Operations were then conducted in three main areas all of which related to field of electronic warfare and to enable VAQ-33 to provide thoroughly realistic training both passive and active means of interference are utilised. Examples of aircraft in use during late 1978 included EKA-3Bs, EA4F, EF-4J, TA-3B and the sole NC-121K Bo No141292/GD-12 bringing a total of 16 aircraft. They continued to provide a valuable continuation to maintaining both air and sea elements of the US Navy.


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NC-121K scale model
Military version of the Constellation aircraft has served primarily with the USAF and USN for airborne early warning and with MATS and later MAC in the transport role. The USAF had one VC-121C. Early warning versions with USN became known EC-121K/H aircraft. 

Building a scale model of the NC-121K to the scale of 1/136 involved modifying a Monogram kit of the VC-121 Super Constellation. Scale plans were first drawn of the new Warning Star particularly the fuselage and fuel tanks where the principal changes to be made. Issued as a passenger transport version kit of the Connie, engaged with the Military Air Transport Service of the US Air Force, this version had square windows running along the fuselage that required to be blanked with plastic card and new ones of round shape were added at various places along the fuselage. The Warning Star also carried two different radar fairings at mid fuselage, one at top and the other below fuselage. These were carved from two small pieces of yellow pine. Other radome fairings were also added to forward upper fuselage also made in pine whole modification to rear and fuselage and wing tip tanks were of a simple nature. An air intake was added to starboard fuselage that was shaped from a section of a fuel tank. Various different aerials were also added to the rear of fuselage. The aircraft was finished in white top upper surfaces and gull grey lower surfaces and the wings walkways were light blue grey to form a contrast grey. Markings on upper radome were hand painted on a decal paper while all other lettering came from the spares box.

This was a different type of modification completely altering the role of one type into a different role of a different version of the Connie. It is not to my normal standard scale of models that I usually do but the final product appeared well suited when placed near a CMR Shackleton Mk2 and a Revell model of the P3 Orion, all of which have a closely related mission role. The scale of all three models was also closely related.

Carmel J Attard

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Photos and text © by Carmel J Attard