Northrop Grumman upgrades nuclear war 'Doomsday Plane' for US Navy

Northrop Grumman upgrades nuclear war 'Doomsday Plane' for US Navy
US Navy E-6B Mercury flying command center
US Navy E-6B Mercury flying command center
View 1 Image
US Navy E-6B Mercury flying command center
US Navy E-6B Mercury flying command center

In an unpleasant reminder of the state of the world, Northrop Grumman has delivered the first refitted E-6B Mercury 'Doomsday Plane' that acts as a flying command center to control the launch of America's nuclear forces in the event of World War III.

In military circles, there are secrets, open secrets, and things that aren't exactly secret, but nobody likes to talk about them. One example of the lattermost is the US military's fleet of what are nicknamed 'Doomsday Planes' that, as the name implies, are intended to go into action if international relations get as unpleasant as it's possible to imagine.

Every day, a number of specially modified jet airliners are patrolling somewhere as they await the realization of the worst nightmares of the Cold War. However, the US government is uncomfortable about even admitting they exist.

In the 1960s, US strategic planners were concerned that the Soviet Union might attempt what is called a decapitation attack against the United States. The idea was that an enemy could paralyze any American response to a nuclear strike by targeting the President, the Pentagon, and the underground command centers of SAC and NORAD.

To prevent this, the US initiated Operation Looking Glass, which involved modifying aircraft into flying command centers that duplicated the systems and staff of the ground-based command. This way, in the event of a decapitation strike, the President, their successor, or whoever is next in the chain of command can coordinate a second strike from Air Force One or wherever they are.

Based on the Boeing 707-320, the E-6B Mercury is the US Navy's Doomsday Plane that's been in service since 1998 and is 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, in a specially hardened airframe that can withstand a wide range of threats. It can also remain airborne for a week with in-flight refueling and only has to land because its lubrication can only be serviced on the ground.

It is tasked with Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) strategic communications missions that use a huge suite of communication systems to relay commands from what remains of the National Command Authority (NCA) to US ballistic missile submarines as well as ICBM and bomber forces, and non-strategic forces.

Under a US$111-million contract, Northrop Grumman updated the communications on the first Mercury with five kits to transmit and receive secure and non-secure voice and data information across a wide radio spectrum, plus more secure and survivable airborne command, control and communications.

According to the company, a second aircraft is now being upgraded with others to follow over the next few years.

"Northrop Grumman is leveraging cutting-edge technology in modernization, supporting the Navy’s mission to provide survivable, reliable and endurable airborne command, control and communications between the National Command Authority and US strategic and nonstrategic forces for persistent mission readiness," said Scott Pfeiffer, vice president, platform sustainment and mission readiness at Northrop Grumman.

Source: Northrop Grumman

We are nuts. Our military industrial complex continues to push us to the brink for their profits. It is madness. There will be no winners. We need to work to reduce and verify all of the nuclear actors. This technology, in no way, makes me feel safer.
Nelson Hyde Chick
It is just so encouraging to know we are working diligently on our own destruction.
Well only some of us are nuts. Sadly a few of the crazy ones are running nuclear-armed countries. The good news is that Joe Biden is unlikely to launch a pre-emptive strike even though he is getting on a bit.