RIVET AMBER was a USAF Boeing RC-135E ELINT aircraft. Rivet Amber was a somewhat experimental RC-135 that was highly modified with a large section of the metal fuselage having been replaced with fiberglass to house a large, state-of-the-art seven megawatt phased-array airborne radar.
In 1963 the program was awarded to LTV Greenville that at the time was the most extensive structural modification ever performed on a large aircraft. This program, known by code names Lisa Ann and Rivet Amber, involved the installation of a large radar in a C-135B to fly reconnaissance missions against certain foreign re-entry/anti-ballistic missile range operations. The 37- month, $35 million program could track an object the size of a soccer ball from a range of 300 nautical miles. Despite the installation of a specially fabricated 12x20 foot laminated fiberglass radome panel on the fuselage of the aircraft, it had no flight restrictions on the aircraft other than those of the original aircraft. Lisa Ann/Rivet Amber worked in the field and even cycled back through Greenville for maintenance in 1966.
Eielson was home to the 6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, as well as the host unit, the 5010th Combat Support Group. The Strategic Air Command had aircrews and maintainers stationed at Eielson to work with planes that rotated through here from bases in the Lower 48. A very big part of their mission involved flying along the east coast of the former Soviet Union along the Kamchatka Peninsula in RC-135 aircraft. The planes that flew this route staged out of Shemya Island on a two-week rotation, since it was closer to the destination.
On 05 June 1969 the Rivet Amber assigned to Eielson AFB crashed in the Bering Sea minutes after leaving Shemya Air Force Base. About 20 minutes into the flight, the crew radioed they were experiencing severe vibrations and that they were going on individual oxygen. Shortly afterwards, the plane disappeared off radar. A massive search began almost instantly, involving eleven aircraft and two Coast Guard cutters. Searchers combed the area several times before calling off the search 11 days later. During the search, no one found any debris confirmed to be from the lost plane. It seemed to just vanish ... no trace of the plane or any of its crew was ever found. In honor of the sacrifice the crew made for their country, a memorial was placed at Amber Hall's front entrance listing the names of the 19 members of River Amber's final crew.
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