The United States has built the most impressive aircraft in the world to keep the President, Secretary of Defence, Joint Chiefs of Staff and other key personnel in the air and out of danger from the ultimate worst-case scenarios.
The ‘doomsday plane’ was mobilised in the tumultuous hours after planes crashed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania on 9/11.
Built at a cost of $223 million, the plane can stay in the air for days without refueling and offer protection from all manner of threats, including nuclear attacks and meteor strikes from outer space.
The E-4B, a militarised version of the Boeing 747-200, is a four-engine, swept-wing, long-range, high-altitude airplane capable of being refueled in flight.
The main deck is divided into six functional areas: a command work area, conference room, briefing room, an operations team work area, and communications and rest areas.
The operations team area containing the automatic data processing equipment and seats and console work areas for 29 staff members.
The consoles are configured to provide access to or from the automated data processing, automatic switchboard, direct access telephone and radio circuits, direct (“hot”) lines, monitor panel for switchboard lines, staff and operator inter-phone and audio recorder.
An E-4B crew may include up to 112 people, including a joint-service operations team, an ACC flight crew, a maintenance and security component, a communications team and selected augmentees.
Other improvements include nuclear and thermal effects shielding, acoustic control, an improved technical control facility and an upgraded air-conditioning system for cooling electrical components.
An advanced satellite communications system improves worldwide communications among strategic and tactical satellite systems and the airborne operations centre.
To provide direct support to the president, secretary of defense and the JCS, at least one E-4B is always on alert at one of many selected bases throughout the world.
The modified 747s, codenamed E-4B, can travel at speeds up to 620 miles per hour, 40 miles per hour faster than their commercial counterparts.
The initial E-4B CNS/ATM Phase 1 aircraft is expected to enter flight test in Q4 2012.