US Air Force tenders for upgrade to ‘Doomsday’ Plane’s nuclear comms
The document published on the Federal Business Opportunities website is an early-stage call for contractors to present their bids. Solicitation is scheduled for early 2019. The contractor is expected to “sustain and modernize critical capabilities” of the Boeing E-4B, also known as the ‘Doomsday plane.’ The aircraft’s National and Nuclear Communication Systems are the primary focus of the contract.
The E-4B, designed in the 1970s and last modified in the 1980s, is based on a Boeing 747-200, reinforced to protect it from both thermal impact and electromagnetic pulse that accompanies a nuclear blast. It also features a war room and an array of communications equipment to coordinate the US military in case of a nation-wide emergency.
All the safeguards proved insufficient against the force of nature in June 2017, however, when a tornado hit the Offutt air base where the E-4Bs are based. The damage it caused left only one out of the four ‘Doomsday planes’ operational for months.
At least one E-4B is required to constantly be ready to take off within minutes, and whenever one does rise into the air it’s bound to cause a stir. One was noticed taking off in mid-April, in the run-up to the joint US-UK-France missile strike on Syria.
Russia, meanwhile, is also modernizing its own ‘Doomsday plane.’ In 2015, the United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation (UIMC), a Rostec subsidiary, created a second-generation “airborne strategic command hub” to replace the previous, 1980s design. Meanwhile, work is already underway to develop a cutting-edge third-gen replacement, which, according to UIMC, is expected to start service in 2020-2022.
If you like this story, share it with a friend!