USAF Awards $13B Contract For ‘Doomsday’ Plane

U.S Air Force

( – The US Air Force has signed a $13 billion contract with a Nevadan aerospace company to replace its fleet of E-4B “Nightwatch” planes, known as the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SOAC). Sierra Nevada Corporation will work with partner companies such as Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce PLC to deliver the long-awaited upgrade over the next 12 years, with work scheduled for completion in 2036.

Sierra Nevada Corporation will supply the USAF with state-of-the-art “Doomsday” planes, so-called because SOAC aircraft have been designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses and nuclear attacks. The SOAC must be able to act as a command center for the U.S. president and other top officials in times of crisis, meaning that the country’s leadership can still function safely even if ground facilities have been destroyed. The planes can even be re-fueled mid-flight, and so can remain airborne for as long as needed.

The aircraft is large enough to accommodate 111 people across multiple sections. These separate operational sections include a briefing room, conference room, operations team area, and even break rooms. There are currently four such specialized planes in operation with at least one ready for use at any time, although they are reported to be rapidly becoming outdated and expensive to run. Operational costs are said to run to $160,000 per hour for the planes originally built in the 1970’s.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation CEO, Fatih Ozmen, said that the company was “ready and excited” for the new deal. The senior vice-president for strategy, Mark C. Williams, attributed the successful bid to the business’s “long-term strategic vision” as well as its “extraordinary” staff. The company has already begun moves to create its new fleet, having bought five 747-8 planes from Korean Air Lines to start working on. The 747-8’s are due to arrive in Dayton, Ohio, within a matter of weeks. Although the company is headquartered in Sparks, Nevada, the work will be spread around sites in Ohio and Colorado.

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