‘Doomsday’ plane to be built in Colorado

Credit U.S. Air Force
An Air Force E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft sits at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia, waiting for Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

Production of the next generation of the U.S. Defense Department’s so-called “Doomsday” plane will happen partly in Colorado. The $13 billion contract awarded to Sierra Nevada Corporation was announced by the Air Force last week.

The Nevada-based company won the contract after Boeing — the builder of the Doomsday plane currently in use — dropped out amidst ongoing controversies surrounding the safety of its passenger commercial planes.

Englewood, Colo. houses the aviation and security headquarters for Sierra Nevada. The summary released by the Air Force said work on the new plane will happen at that facility as well as company locations in Nevada and Ohio.

The Doomsday plane’s official names are the E-4B “Nightwatch” and the National Airborne Operations Center. The craft is intended to keep top U.S. military officials alive and airborne in the event of a nuclear attack.

The first E-4B plane currently operating has been in service since 1980. House Lawmakers in recent years have expressed concerns over the aging fleet.

The four current E-4B’s, a modified version of a Boeing 747, is often used to transport the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The plane is protected against an electromagnetic pulse, can be refueled midair and is built with “nuclear and thermal effects shielding.”

Sierra Nevada is expected to complete work on the successor to the E-4B by July 10, 2036.