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US to build new ‘doomsday plane’

The command and control aircraft will allow the president to continue leading the country in case of nuclear war

The US will develop a new ‘doomsday plane,’ intended to allow the president to continue leading the country in case of a nuclear war or other major disaster that destroys command and control centers on the ground, the Air Force has announced.

A $13-billion contract for the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) project has been awarded to Sierra Nevada Corp, a US Air Force spokesperson announced in a statement on Friday.

Work on the new strategic command and control military aircraft will be conducted at the company’s facilities in Colorado, Nevada and Ohio, the statement read. The deadline for the project is 2036, it added.

According to the spokesman, the SAOC will be based on a commercial derivative jet, which would be hardened and modified to meet the standards of the Pentagon.

“The development of this critical national security weapon system ensures the department’s nuclear command, control, and communications capability is operationally relevant and secure for decades to come,” the statement read.

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The SAOC is intended to become a replacement for the aging E-4B Nightwatch aircraft or the National Airborne Operations Center that the US Air Force is using at the moment.

The E-4Bs, which are based on a Boeing 747 jet, have been around since the mid-1970s. The planes are expected to be retired in the early 2030s. According to Reuters, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the aircraft as parts for them become obsolete.

The US Air Force currently operates four ‘doomsday planes,’ with at least one of them being constantly on alert. The E-4Bs carry advanced communications gear, are capable of refueling in the air, and can withstand nuclear blasts and various electromagnetic effects.

Russia also has four ‘doomsday planes,’ which are based on the Ilyushin Il-80 jet. The aircraft first took to the skies in 1985, but their communication equipment has been upgraded in recent years. A source told RIA-Novosti in 2022 that the planes can now exchange data with Russian nuclear submarines.

April 27, 2024 at 09:13PM

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