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Four E-4Bs make up the National Airborne Operations Center out of the Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska.
Designed in the ‘70s, this “Doomsday Plane” was thought to be the best way for a US President to survive a nuclear explosion during the Cold War. Unsurprisingly, even today, one Doomsday Plane has stood on alert 24/7.
In the event of a nuclear blast, the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would all be safe aboard the E-4B. While inside, the three can order nuclear strikes or execute war orders in the air.
The aircraft has three decks to accommodate 112 people. The front of the Nightwatch houses senior military officials, while the upper deck houses 18 USAF crewmembers, and beneath that is the Conference Room, where the highest military officials can order commands.
Next to that is the Briefing Room, where they can update the traveling press and staff on strategies. At the center of the plane is the Battle-Staff Room, where officers from every military branch can think of strategies in the event of a crisis.
Meanwhile, all outside communication happens at the very back – in the Communication and Technical Control Room. All communication technology is held at the Ray Dome, the bubble you see on the top of the E-4B, which houses 67 satellite dishes and antennas.
They can even communicate with submarines underwater by deploying a 5-mile-long “tail” behind the plane!
A wired mesh on the windows prevents radiation from getting inside, while the equipment and wires are hardened to survive an electromagnetic pulse. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a thermal and nuclear shielding feature within the plane.
But if worse comes to worst, the E-4B also has direct-fire countermeasures to protect itself in the event of a direct attack.
However, the E-4B is still the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force operates on a per-hour basis. As it stands, the Nightwatch costs almost $160,000 an hour to fly, beating the B-2 Spirit at $130,159 and the C-5 Galaxy at $100,941.