Secretive $187m ‘Doomsday plane’ is a fortress in the sky, ready for anything

The aircraft is a key component of the National Military Command System.
  • The ‘Doomsday plane’ serves as an airborne command center 
  • It features multiple functional areas and is heavily protected
  • The aircraft can stay aloft for more than 150 hours with aerial refueling

Published on Apr 15, 2024 at 4:47PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Apr 15, 2024 at 6:58PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Kate Bain
Secretive $187m 'Doomsday plane' is a fortress in the sky, ready for anything

Few aircraft have the capabilities and mission readiness of the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Doomsday plane.

A militarized version of the Boeing 747-200, the Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post (AACP) serves as a current ‘Nightwatch’.

Here we delve into the extraordinary capabilities of the E-4B aircraft.

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The Doomsday plane is a highly capable aircraft that supports the National Airborne Operations Center for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

In a national emergency, should ground operations be compromised, the Nightwatch serves as an airborne control center.

The aircraft boasts plenty of cabin space to accommodate multiple functional areas.

As well as dedicated conference and meeting rooms, the infamous Doomsday plane has multiple control areas, including a command work area, an operations work area, and a communications area.

The aircraft seats up to 111 people, most of whom provide airborne support in these functional areas.

Due to being an airborne command and control center, the Doomsday plane is highly prone to security risks and threats.

Therefore, the plane is fitted with a specialized electrical system that protects it against the effect of electromagnetic pulses.

The aircraft is also fitted with thermal and nuclear shielding, protecting it against threats, whilst also enabling satellite communication through secure channels.

In its mission to protect the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the JCS, the Doomsday plane is ready when duty calls.

At least one Nightwatch is always on alert, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a ready global watch team at one of many airforce bases worldwide.

But as well as conducting national security missions, the E-4B also supports humanitarian missions.

During distress situations, the E-4B uses its command center capabilities to support relief efforts during natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, and similar instances.

The Doomsday plane is a high-endurance aircraft, given its size and mission requirements.

Boasting in-flight aerial refueling capability, the plane can stay in the air for long periods.

Apparently, the E-4B features more than 150 hours of endurance with refueling, with two fully-loaded KC-135 aerial refueling tankers needed to fill an empty E-4B.

No doubt a sight to behold, like this helicopter seen frantically refueling mid-air.

Designed to stay in the air for a full week, its own fuel tanks achieve a tremendous range of 6,200 nautical miles (11,482 km).

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