December 11, 2023

Northrop Grumman delivered the first modified E-6B Mercury “Doomsday Plane” to serve as the flight command center that controlled the launches of US nuclear forces during World War III, in an unpleasantly Remember the state of the world.

In military circles, there are secrets, open secrets, and not-quite-secrets, but no one likes to talk about them. An example of the latter is the U.S. military fleet nicknamed the “Doomsday Plane,” which, by definition, takes action if international relations turn out to be as unpleasant as imagined.

Every day, dozens of specially modified jetliners patrol somewhere, waiting for the worst nightmare of the Cold War to become a reality. However, the U.S. government is reluctant to even acknowledge their existence.

In the 1960s, U.S. strategic planners worried that the Soviet Union might launch a so-called decapitation attack on the United States. The idea is that an enemy could paralyze any U.S. response to a nuclear strike by targeting the President, the Pentagon, and the underground command centers of SAC and NORAD.

To prevent this from happening, the United States launched Operation Looking Glass, which involves converting aircraft into flight command centers, duplicating ground command systems and personnel. That way, in the event of a decapitation attack, the president, their successor, or whoever next in the chain of command can coordinate a second attack from Air Force One or wherever they are.

Based on the Boeing 707-320, the E-6B Mercury is the US Navy’s doomsday aircraft, in service since 1998, the last variant of the 707. Powered by four CFM-56-2A-2 high-bypass turbofan engines, it carries a crew of 22, including analysts and strategists, and has a specially hardened airframe to withstand a variety of threats. It can also stay in the air for a week with mid-air refueling, and only needs to land, since its lubricants can only be serviced on the ground.

Its mission is the Strategic Communications Mission of Charge and Evacuation (TACAMO), which uses a vast communications system to relay orders from the remainder of the National Command Agency (NCA) to U.S. ballistic missile submarine and ICBM and bomber forces, and non-strategic power.

Under a $111 million contract, Northrop Grumman updated the communications system onboard the first Mercury with five kits to transmit and receive secure and nonsecure communications across a wide range of the radio spectrum. Voice and data messaging, and more secure and survivable airborne command, control and communications.

According to the company, the second plane is currently being upgraded along with the others to follow in the next few years.

“Northrop Grumman is utilizing modern, cutting-edge technology in support of the Navy’s mission to provide survivable, reliable, and enduring airborne command, control, and communications between national command structures and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces , for durable mission readiness,” said Scott Pfeiffer, Northrop Grumman Vice President of Platform Maintenance and Mission Readiness.

source: Northrop Grumman