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Optical Reconnaissance Cameras

Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in Southeast Asia carried optical and infrared cameras. Optical cameras needed visible light to record images on film -- they could also be used at night with photoflash cartridges. Some USAF aircraft took photographs of variations in heat using infrared cameras, which proved more effective at night and in bad weather than optical cameras.

Chicago Aerial Industries KA-45 Optical Camera
This KA-45 took 4.5-inch-by-4.5-inch negatives and is fitted with a low-altitude 6-inch lens cone. The KA-45 was used in the RF-101C and RF-4C.

Fairchild KA-56 Panoramic Optical Camera
The KA-56 took low-altitude panoramic (horizon-to-horizon) images with a prism lens. The KA-56 was carried in the RF-101C, RF-4C and RB-57E.

Chicago Aerial Industries KS-87 Optical Camera
This KS-87 took 4.5-inch-by-4.5-inch negatives and is equipped with a medium-altitude 12-inch lens cone. The KS-87 was used in the RF-4C.

Photoflash Cartridges
USAF aircraft used photoflash cartridges to provide light for optical cameras at night. After being ejected from an aircraft, they flashed for about 1/5 of a second.

The smaller 1-pound M-112 cartridge flashed at 110 million candlepower, while the larger 4.3-pound M-123 cartridge flashed at 265 million candlepower (equivalent to the light from 265 million candles).

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