A U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury not too long ago turned heads in Tucson, Arizona after it appeared there with what appeared to be a closely weathered paint job. The Conflict Zone subsequently reached out to the Navy for extra info and have discovered that the service is itself working to resolve the matter. The Navy’s E-6Bs are so-called ‘doomsday planes’ that serve as airborne command posts for America’s nuclear deterrent triad.

The E-6B in query has the Navy serial quantity (also called Bureau Quantity, or BuNo) 164387. Footage, seen on the prime of this story and under, present the jet with enormous patches of paint lacking throughout a lot its fuselage, tail, and a few of its engine cowlings.

<em>Cayden Smith</em>

Cayden Smith

Navy ships have usually drawn consideration up to now on account of operating rust and different heavy weathering to their paint jobs. Nonetheless, related operational put on and tear doesn’t seem like what has occurred to this specific E-6B.

“The paint on E-6B plane 164387 isn’t adhering to the primer,” Naval Air Techniques Command’s (NAVAIR) Airborne Strategic Command, Management, and Communications Program Workplace (PMA-271) informed The Conflict Zone in response to our queries about this Mercury. “We’re investigating this challenge and an applicable resolution.”

“The plane stays totally mission-capable and continues to help all assigned tasking,” the assertion added.

This may be seen in on-line flight monitoring knowledge about 164387’s exercise since leaving Tucson Worldwide Airport on January 23. The E-6B then flew to Tinker Air Power Base in Oklahoma, which is the primary working base for the Mercury fleet (16 plane in complete) and is dwelling to the Navy’s Strategic Communications Wing 1. The wing has two operational E-6B items, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons 3 and 4 (VQ-3 and VQ-4).

On January 24, 164387 left Tinker for Offutt Air Power Base in Nebraska. Offutt is a serious hub for Air Power strategic command and management and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) plane, in addition to being dwelling to U.S. Strategic Command’s (STRATCOM) headquarters. The distressed-looking E-6B has flown at the least two sorties from Offutt since arriving there on Wednesday, in response to publicly out there monitoring knowledge from ADS-B Trade.

Tracking data for E-6B BuNo 164387 on January 24, 2024, showing the aircraft flying from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The aircraft then conducted a sortie that took it over Wyoming and Montana. <em>ADS-B Exchange</em>

Monitoring knowledge for E-6B BuNo 164387 on January 24, 2024, displaying the plane flying from Tinker Air Power Base in Oklahoma to Offutt Air Power Base in Nebraska. The plane then carried out a sortie that took it over Wyoming and Montana. ADS-B Trade

Maintaining a adequate variety of Boeing 707 airliner-based E-6Bs operational at anybody time is vital to the U.S. navy’s nuclear deterrence posture. These plane present vital and survivable nodes by way of which orders to hold out nuclear strikes, additionally recognized as Emergency Motion Messages (EAM), could be transmitted ought to the necessity ever come up.

The E-6Bs have a bunch of specialised capabilities to help this core mission requirement. The jets can prolong a five-mile-long antenna to speak instantly with submerged Ohio class nuclear ballistic missile submarines, a central ingredient of what the Navy calls the Take Cost and Transfer Out (TACAMO) mission. They plane even have the flexibility to provoke the launch of silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles whereas in flight. That is in help of an Air Power airborne nuclear command and management mission set generally referred to by the nickname Wanting Glass.

A picture of an E-6B with a red arrow pointing to the tip of the five-mile-long antenna the aircraft can unspool to communicate with submerged <em>Ohio</em> class nuclear ballistic missile submarines. <em>USAF</em>

An image of an E-6B with a pink arrow pointing to the tip of the five-mile-long antenna the plane can unspool to speak with submerged Ohio class nuclear ballistic missile submarines. USAF

The way forward for the Wanting Glass mission set is at the moment unsure. The Navy is working to begin supplanting the E-6B fleet with new C-130J-30 Hercules-based doomsday planes by the top of the last decade. Nonetheless, these plane will probably be configured to help the TACAMO mission solely.

Lockheed Martin artwork depicting a future C-130J-30-based TACAMO aircraft for the US Navy. <em>Howard Altman</em>

Lockheed Martin paintings depicting a future C-130J-30-based TACAMO plane for the US Navy. Howard Altman

The Air Power does have 4 bigger Boeing 747-based E-4B Nightwatch plane, also called Nationwide Airborne Operations Facilities (NAOC), with nuclear command and management capabilities. Nonetheless, this very small fleet of plane is primarily meant to carry out a broader continuity of presidency operate, serving to to make sure the President and different senior officers can proceed to execute their authorities within the occasion of an especially severe disaster, as you may learn extra about right here. The Air Power is now transferring to switch the E-4Bs with newer Survivable Airborne Operations Heart (SAOC) plane.

It appears more and more onerous to see how the Air Power can escape a have to pursue a extra direct alternative for the E-6B in help of the Wanting Glass mission. Some members of Congress are actually starting push for the service to just do this. Previous to the introduction of the dual-mission Mercury, the Air Power had operated a fleet of EC-135 Wanting Glass plane.

Within the meantime, the E-6B Mercury fleet, together with BuNo 164387 with its paint peeling for nonetheless unclear causes, will proceed to offer important strategic nuclear command and management capabilities.

Particular because of Cayden Smith for sharing the images of E-6B BuNo 164387.

Contact the writer: joe@thedrive.com

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