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Cobra Ball Celebrates 60 Years

According to the U.S. Air Force’s RC-135S Fact Sheet, the Cobra Ball is a rapidly deployable aircraft, which flies Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed missions of national priority to collect optical and electronic data on ballistic targets. This data is critical to arms treaty compliance verification, and development of U.S. strategic defense and theater missile defense concepts.

There are three RC-135S aircraft in the Air Force inventory all assigned to Air Combat Command and permanently based at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., according to the Air Force. The Cobra Ball is operated by the 55th Wing, and manned with aircrews from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, and the 97th Intelligence Squadron, using various forward deployment locations worldwide.

RC-135S Cobra Ball mission, features and background

Air Force Website


  • RC-135 Data Sheet

    RC-135 Data Sheet