US Air Force Boeing E-4B “Doomsday Plane” Fleet to Receive Communication Modifications

The Boeing E-4B fleet is in the process of receiving upgrades designed to revolutionize communication capabilities and effectiveness. Recently, the first of four E-4B aircraft successfully completed developmental testing, after receiving the Low Frequency Transmit System (LFTS) and Advanced Extremely High Frequency Presidential National Voice Conferencing Integration Program (APIP) modifications. A key part of the modification effort, was the work done by the Command, Control, Communication, Intelligence, and Networks Directorate, to escort, secure, and transfer crypto materials integral to the evaluation, testing, and operation of the aircraft’s communications systems. Their efforts freed operational resources to maintain the E-4B’s 24/7 alert mission, and increased availability for key manning positions during a national pandemic.

“Superior communication capabilities are essential on the battlefield,” said Brig. Gen. Ryan Britton, Program Executive Officer for the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate. “The revolutionary technology that these modifications provide, delivers the United States an incredible strategic advantage for command and control.”

“These modifications are game changing,” said Lt. Col. Ben Chown, E-4B Materiel Leader for the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate, responsible for leading the modification efforts. “The LFTS mod provides revolutionary single wire low frequency communication capability, while APIP transforms reliability and survivability of the E-4B SATCOM and national leadership command and control systems. The team is phenomenal at what they do!”

A Boeing E-4B, an airborne command post, fly’s over the U.S. Navy Blue Angels F-18s during the Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show here Aug. 29. The E-4B serves as the National Airborne Operations Center for the president, secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In response to an emergency the aircraft can provide a highly survivable, command, control and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)

The U.S. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications Integration Directorate acquired the APIP systems via two different programmatic efforts, and served as technical advisors as system performance was verified. Boeing and Collins Aerospace are installing the LFTS modification, and Raytheon Technologies is installing the APIP mod on the aircraft. Commonly known as the “Doomsday” plane, the E-4B serves as the National Airborne Operations Center, and is a key component of the National Military Command System. In the event of a national emergency, the aircraft can provide a command, control and communication center to direct U.S. Forces and coordinate actions by civil authorities. The three remaining aircraft in the E-4B fleet will receive the modifications over the next few years during their standard programmed depot maintenance cycle, maximizing aircraft availability for operations.

The Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post (AACP), the current “Nightwatch” aircraft, is a strategic command and control military aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). The E-4 series are specially modified from the Boeing 747-200B for the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) program. The E-4 serves as a survivable mobile command post for the National Command Authority, namely the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and successors. The four E-4Bs are operated by the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron of the 595th Command and Control Group located at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska. The aircraft was to provide a survivable platform to conduct war operations in the event of a nuclear attack. Early in the E-4’s service, the media dubbed the aircraft as “the doomsday planes”. The Boeing E-4B has nuclear electromagnetic pulse protection, nuclear and thermal effects shielding, advanced electronics, and a wide variety of communications equipment.