Air Force picks the builder of its next Doomsday planes

Air Force picks the builder of its next Doomsday planes

Sierra Nevada Corporation has been selected to replace the U.S. Air Force’s “Doomsday” planes.

Under a $13 billion contract, SNC will replace the service’s aging fleet of four E-4B planes, also known as Nightwatch or the National Airborne Operations Center, with a new aircraft called the Survivable Airborne Operations Center. The project is expected to be completed by July 2036.

The E-4B, a modified Boeing 747, serves as a mobile airborne command headquarters during a national emergency or in the event of the destruction of ground command and control centers. The aircraft is often referred to as the Doomsday plane.

This win is an achievement for the mid-sized SNC, which aggressively pursued the contract, opening a dedicated 90,000-square-foot maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, last July. Notably, they were the only contender remaining after Boeing, the incumbent, withdrew from the competition in late 2023 due to concerns about fixed-price contracts.

The Air Force has been increasing research and development funding for the E-4B replacement effort, according to Forecast International’s International Military Markets – North America service. The service requested $203.2 million in 2023 after receiving $50 million in 2021 and $95.8 million in 2022. However, Congress cut $105 million for the program in 2023. The 2024 request was increased to $888.8 million, $278 million more than originally planned. Funding will increase to $1.9 billion in 2025, with a total of $8.1 billion planned through the five-year defense plan. The 2023 budget had only projected $3.2 billion over the five years.

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