We may not be preparing for the doomsday yet, but America seems to be fully prepared with a set of militarized Boeing 747-200B’s that will serve as mobile command platforms in case of a disaster.
Also called the Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, the only purpose of this plane is to ensure communications for both civil and military operations in case of the worst events. The planes were developed under the project “Nightwatch” and were previously called “National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC).” Four units of the Boeing E-4 exist, and all of them are based at the Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.
The E-4B is similar to the Air Force One plane, but the communication gear fitted in the aircraft is the most sophisticated equipment that has ever been to the skies. The American Military High Command is supposed to rely on these planes in case of any disaster. NOAC Team Chief, Colonel Brien Baude, says, “If there’s someone out there with a radio, we can talk to them.” Infact, one of the Doomsday planes was launched in the 2001 terror attack.
These planes were designed in an era when there was an imminent danger of Mutual Assured Destruction, so the installed technology sounds more like the overkill. One of the four aircraft remains on instant alert all the times, and they are rotated weekly, despite of the lesser fear of a nuclear holocaust. The entire crew of the plane is stationed in the barracks nearby to make sure that the craft goes airborne. It is still unknown that how quick the planes can get airborne, but Colonel Baude says that they “meet our needs and ensure survivability.”
The maintenance crew of the E-4s happens to be the only one who is certified to start the plane’s engines, so the pilots can begin taxiing as soon as they arrive. Colonel Baude explained to Scientific American, “In a time of national emergency or disaster, [the plane] supports the President and the Secretary of Defense. It’s an airborne survival platform for command and control. Deterrence is viewed as a job. That is its mission — to be on alert, poised, and ready.”
All the windows of the plane are protected with EMP shielding grid, so the delicate onboard systems are not damaged. The broad array of onboard equipment includes a very low-frequency (VLF) antenna that trails behind the plane for about 5 miles (8 km), super high-frequency equipment mounted on the fuselage, and Milstar communications at the top.
The USAF defines Milstar as a “joint service satellite communications system that provides secure, jam resistant, worldwide communications to meet essential wartime requirements for high priority military users. The multi-satellite constellation links command authorities with a wide variety of resources, including ships, submarines, aircraft and ground stations.”
All that sophisticated equipment makes sure that the onboard crew can communicate with all the military forces around the world; any level of communication whether fully secure or public. Internet connectivity is also available to contact anyone via radio or telephone. The mid-flight refueling maximizes the flight time. The only problem that might occur is the shortage of supplies for the crew.
The plane is divided into three floors; the middle one is reserved for the battle staff where the officer has complete information about the military operations, country’s infrastructure, and the national intelligence issues. The controllers are also qualified to fix and repair any equipment that they use. 57 cases of ready-to-eat meals are provided to the staff, and there are 14 bunks to allow them to get some rest. The crew includes flight engineers, navigators, communications operators, attendants, and the pilots. Besides them, rest of the people belong to the battle staff of the plane.
The name of the aircraft is pretty scary and discomforting, but it might be able to save America and its surrounding areas when a massive catastrophe decides to engulf the country.