Boeing Exits Competition for US Air Force’s Next ‘Doomsday Plane'

The US Air Force's 'Doomsday Plane', a modified Boeing 747 Nightwatch, has been a symbol of the nation's preparedness in the face of potential nuclear warfare. However, recent developments indicate that Boeing, the long-standing manufacturer of this iconic aircraft, has been eliminated from the competition to produce its replacement.


The Legacy of the 'Doomsday Plane'

The 'Doomsday Plane', officially known as the E-4B Nightwatch, is a militarized version of the Boeing 747-200B. It serves as the National Airborne Operations Center and is designed to withstand the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast. The aircraft can remain aloft for days and conduct routine training and readiness missions. At least one of these planes is kept on 24/7 readiness. The plane acts as a mobile war room. In the event of a nuclear war, President Joe Biden, his secretary of defense, or the most senior armed forces officers would be on board with military analysts, strategists, and communications aides.


The Need for Replacement

Despite its impressive capabilities, the 'Doomsday Plane' is showing signs of age. The Boeing 747 used to be known as the "queen of the skies." But major commercial airlines that flew the 200 series retired them in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This means the Air Force has flown these planes for 20 years past their expected lifespan. Even if the replacement program gets all the money the Air Force is requesting this year, the new planes won’t be delivered until 2027, meaning the existing aircraft will need to fly well past their 50th birthday. This situation has experts and defense industry advocacy groups on edge.

Boeing's Recent Challenges

Boeing's elimination from the competition comes amidst a series of challenges for the company. Recently, Boeing reported another $482 million in red ink on the contract to retrofit two 747 jets into the next generation of the presidential plane. Boeing has now lost more than $1 billion on each of the two jets.

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Looking Forward

The elimination of Boeing from the 'Doomsday Plane' competition marks a significant shift in the landscape of military aircraft manufacturing. As the US Air Force seeks to modernize its fleet and maintain its readiness in the face of evolving global threats, it remains to be seen who will step up to fill the role previously held by Boeing.

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