A U.S. Air Force E-4B Nightwatch “Doomsday Plane” conducted an emergency landing at Lincoln Airport in Lancaster County, Nebraska on March 2.
The aircraft, with call sign GORDO14, took off from Offutt Air Force Base and was flying over southwest Iowa. Following an in-flight emergency, the aircraft landed at the Lincoln Airport where it was met by fire crews from the Nebraska Air National Guard (NE ANG), which operates from the airfield.
The crew declared the emergency “out of an abundance of caution” after instruments indicated problems with the aircraft’s hydraulic system, according to Ryan Hansen, a spokesman for the Offutt-based 55th Wing.
The E-4B aircraft, with tail number 75-0125, is operated by the 1st Airborne Command Control Squadron (1 ACCS) which is part of the 595th Command and Control Group at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. This particular aircraft reportedly accompanied President Donald Trump on his trip to India last month.
Nicknamed the doomsday” plane, Boeing E-4B serves as a survivable aerial command center for the National Command Authority (NCA), namely the President, the Secretary of Defense, and successors, in case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers. An E-4B when in action is denoted a “National Airborne Operations Center”.
The aircraft, based on Boeing 747-200B commercial airliner, provides a “highly survivable command, control and communications center to direct US forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities,” according to the Air Force.
The Air Force has four E-4Bs in active service; all operated by 1 ACCS. Two of these aircraft, which are designed to withstand a nuclear blast, were damaged when a tornado hit near Offutt AFB on June 16, 2017, causing $8.3 million worth of damage. These E-4Bs were out of service for eleven weeks while the repairs took place.
The Air Force is currently seeking possible replacements for the E-4B. The service issued a presolicitation notice last December for the replacement of the legacy E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) system under the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) Weapon System (WS) program.
“Replacement of the E-4B fleet is necessary due to aging 1970s-era aircraft approaching [the] end of service life. In order to satisfy operational requirements, the SAOC WS will be supported on a new, cost-effective, commercial derivative aircraft (CDA). The SAOC Mission systems consist(s) of modern communications subsystem, networks subsystem, and advanced command and control (C2) subsystems”, said the presolicitation notice.