Aerial Warfare

Sierra Nevada Corporation Awarded $13 Billion Contract for New Doomsday Plane

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Sierra Nevada Corporation Awarded $13 Billion Contract for New Doomsday Plane

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U.S. Air Force Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post (AACP)
U.S. Air Force Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post (AACP)

The U.S. Air Force has recently disclosed that Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) awarded a $13 billion contract to furnish a replacement for the E-4B “Doomsday” plane, commonly known as Nightwatch or the National Airborne Operations Center. Expected to persist until July 2036, the contract entails the development of the new Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC), aimed at supplanting the Air Force’s aging fleet of four E-4B planes. These aircraft, pivotal in transporting the Defense Secretary, also serve as mobile nuclear command and control hubs. This notable win marks a watershed moment for SNC, catapulting it into one of its most significant ventures yet.

SNC’s obligations extend beyond mere integration of military functionalities like air refueling and secure communications. The firm is tasked with fortifying commercial aircraft against electronic and nuclear threats, an unprecedented challenge. The Air Force envisions acquiring eight to 10 aircraft for the SAOC initiative, potentially resorting to procuring pre-owned models if a Boeing 747, a prime candidate for militarization, is selected.Tthe development approach for these aircraft will adhere to a modular open systems methodology. Additionally, ground support systems will be established to facilitate operations, maintenance, and future enhancements throughout the SAOC’s lifecycle.

The significance of this project cannot be overstated, as it bolsters the Department’s Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications capability, ensuring operational relevance and security for decades ahead. While SNC’s victory may not have come as a surprise to many, it follows the unexpected elimination of Boeing, the incumbent for the current E-4B fleet. Boeing, renowned for its work on mammoth projects like the Air Force One replacement endeavor, was a formidable competitor for the contract. Under the appropriations allocated by Congress for fiscal year 2024, the Air Force has earmarked $744 million for investment in the SAOC program. Looking ahead to FY25, the service is seeking approximately $1.7 billion to sustain momentum in this critical modernization effort.

The Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post (AACP) 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-4B is designed to survive an EMP with systems intact, and has state-of-the-art direct fire countermeasures. countermeasures. 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.

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