The sophistication of the US Doomsday Plane, the President's Special Aircraft During a Nuclear War

The sophistication of the US Doomsday Plane, the President's Special Aircraft During a Nuclear War
The sophistication of the US Doomsday Plane

International Military - On Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin monitored the nuclear drills, which state television said were rehearsals to attack the United States. As tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing remain high over Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively, there are growing concerns that nuclear weapons could be deployed for the first time since 1945.

The latest Pentagon report calls Russia an acute threat to the US, including through its nuclear weapons. If the U.S. mainland is threatened, President Joe Biden and other top officials can board one of the four "Doomsday Planes," designed to act as mobile command and control posts in the event of a nuclear war.

What is the Doomsday Plane?

The US Doomsday aircraft, officially known as the Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post (AACP), is a modified version of the Boeing 747-200 in US Air Force service. According to the U.S. Air Force, it was created to provide a highly defensive command, control and communications center in the event of a "national emergency" or the destruction of a ground-based command center.

The E-4B AACP is designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses and for this reason has no windows except in the cockpit. It comes with "nuclear and thermal effect protection" and has a wide range of communications equipment, including access to the US military's highly secure Milstar satellite system.

The aircraft first entered service in the 1970s, although three of the aircraft were initially less technologically advanced E-4A AACPs before being upgraded to E-4Bs in the early 1980s. There is at least one AACP E-4B on standby at all times.

Development of a replacement, called the Survivable Airborne Operations Center, begins in 2021, although it is still in a very early stage of development as early as 2022. The E-4B AACP, which can be refueled in the air, costs nearly $160,000 per hour to operate. . This estimate is according to a report from Business Insider.

What's Inside the Doomsday Plane?

Each E-4B AACP aircraft can accommodate up to 112 people, with the aircraft divided into three levels. The mid-level serves as a command center that the President and other top officials can use to coordinate the U.S. response to a nuclear strike.

According to the Air Force it is divided into six sections, consisting of: "Command work area, conference room, briefing room, operations team work area, communication area, and rest area." Conference rooms are soundproofed and equipped with video display screens, while there are 14 beds throughout the plane for sleeping. Most of the operations crew were stationed at the rear of the E-4B AACP.

In 2017, David Rennie a journalist at The Economist was allowed to visit one of the planes and said the interior had a retro look, though much of it remained "off-limits". Describing the plane's interior, he said: "It has a very retro Cold War feel, from the leather-covered secretarial swivel chair, which won't embarrass a Bond villain, to the military edition urinal mounted on the bathroom wall." "It drains straight into the sky, to avoid filling the septic tank on a long flight," he said.

Why Are Doomsday Planes So Valuable?

Newsweek spoke to a number of nuclear warfare experts who explained why the E-4B AACP is so important to US security. Scott D. Sagan, a professor at Stanford University who has authored a number of books on nuclear warfare and strategy, argues that the E-4B AACP makes it less likely that enemy forces will launch a first nuclear strike.

"The so-called 'Doomsday Plane' is a critical component of nuclear deterrence. Maintaining the ability for the President and Secretary of Defense to defend against enemy attacks on Washington, by being aboard a command post plane, makes it much less likely that any adversary might believe that an attack 'beheading' against the US could work," he said. This view is shared by Dakota Rudesill, an assistant professor at Ohio State University who specializes in nuclear control, who agrees these planes help prevent a nuclear attack on the US.

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