US News$13 billion for new "doomsday planes": A flying fortress to safeguard America

$13 billion for new "doomsday planes": A flying fortress to safeguard America

Visualization of the future SAOC aircraft
Visualization of the future SAOC aircraft
Images source: © Sierra Nevada Corporation
5:48 PM EDT, May 3, 2024

The doomsday plane acts as a mobile command center for top commanders and the President of the USA, designed to preserve the continuity of American governance in the event of a nuclear war. This comes into play, especially if ground centers are destroyed. The United States is in the process of constructing new planes for this critical purpose.

A $13 billion budget has been allocated to the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to develop new "doomsday planes." Although SNC is not an original aircraft manufacturer and has been previously outpaced by competitors such as Boeing, it specializes in modifying and adapting aircraft for specialized tasks.

The current airborne centers of American power are constituted by four Boeing E-4s, known as E-4B Nightwatch. Originating from the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets in the 1970s, these planes have undergone modernization. However, their equipment is now considered insufficient, prompting the decision to construct successors. The new aircraft will be equipped with advanced communication tools to maintain the continuity of the decision-making chain under the conditions expected after a nuclear attack.

The doomsday plane - a "nuclear" White House and Pentagon

Adhering to safety principles, the new "doomsday planes" will continue to be based on the Jumbo Jet design, which is notable for its four-engine configuration. This feature has become rare among newer aircraft of comparable size. While this choice may impact future operating costs, the program's budget indicates that cost considerations are secondary to functionality and safety.

The new command centers will carry the name SAOC (Survivable Airborne Operations Center). While specifics regarding the quantity of these new aircraft have not been disclosed, unofficial sources suggest the construction of up to 10 new aircraft. This expansion aims to replace other flying command centers, including the Boeing E-6 Mercury and the Boeing C-32, used for transporting high-ranking officials other than the President.

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