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    HomeMilitaryU.S. Air Force Secures Future with $13 Billion 'Doomsday Plane' Upgrade

    U.S. Air Force Secures Future with $13 Billion ‘Doomsday Plane’ Upgrade

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    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    In an era marked by heightened global tensions and technological advancements, the U.S. Air Force has announced a strategic investment in its nuclear command and control capabilities with a $13 billion contract awarded to Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC).

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    This significant investment is aimed at developing a fleet of new Survivable Airborne Operations Centers (SAOC), poised to replace the aging E-4B Nightwatch aircraft, colloquially known as the “Doomsday planes.”

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The current E-4B Nightwatch, a militarized version of the Boeing 747-200, has been a staple of U.S. defense since the late 1970s.

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) BuNo. 164409 TACAMO / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’ –” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    These aircraft are fortified to withstand nuclear blasts and electromagnetic pulses, ensuring U.S. leaders can maintain command and control of military forces in the direst of circumstances.

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    With the ability to refuel in flight, these airborne fortresses provide a mobile and highly survivable command post, encapsulating advanced communications equipment, and facilities such as conference and briefing rooms.

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) BuNo. 164409 TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    However, as these planes approach the end of their service life in the early 2030s, the need for a modernized fleet becomes ever more pressing. The new SAOC project is anticipated to run through July 2036, with work on the initiative taking place across Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio.

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) BuNo. 164409 TACAMO / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    According to the contract details, the SAOC will be based on commercial airliners, with the Air Force likely sourcing from the used 747 market to form the foundation of the future fleet.

    Boeing E-6B Mercury (Boeing 707-320) TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) / Looking Glass ‘Doomsday Plane’” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The innovative modular open systems approach will allow for more efficient updates and upgrades, keeping the technology aboard the planes at the cutting edge.

    210514-F-JG201-1103” by AirmanMagazine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Despite the U.S. Air Force scaling back on other programs, such as the F-15EX Eagle II and the F-35 Lightning II, the SAOC has been highlighted as a priority.

    An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, flies alongside an Italian marine F-35 Lightning II and an AV-8B II+ Harrier in support of NATO-led activity Neptune Shield 22.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    In fiscal year 2024 (FY24), around $744 million has been dedicated to the SAOC program, with a request for approximately $1.7 billion for FY25.

    Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs begin Auto GCAS test flights.” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The rationale behind such a hefty investment is clear: the Nightwatch fleet offers unparalleled assurance in a nuclear event.

    ‘Jade03’ – USAF E-4B ‘Nightwatch’ at Spot V1.” by Ken H / @chippyho is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    It’s not just about withstanding direct attacks; the aircraft are equipped to manage nuclear and thermal effects, providing a command center that can operate in a so-called true doomsday scenario.

    E-4B Nightwatch” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The SAOC is more than an upgrade; it is a commitment to future-proofing the nation’s defense. As the U.S. faces challenges from adversaries and continues to extend military support to allies like Ukraine, the reinforcement of such critical assets underscores the strategic focus on maintaining a robust and responsive military infrastructure.

    E-4B Nightwatch” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The anticipation of these advanced “Doomsday Planes” signifies the U.S. military’s resolve to stay ahead in an increasingly uncertain global landscape.

    E-4B Nightwatch” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    With the SAOC, the Air Force not only preserves a crucial element of its defense mechanism but also sends a message of persistent readiness and enduring strength.

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