U.S. Company Purchases Five Korean Air Jets For Conversion Into Next-Generation "Nuclear Doomsday" Plane

Sierra Nevada Corporation has been assigned the responsibility of creating a next-generation “Doomsday plane” to succeed the E-4B Nightwatch in service with the US Air Force.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), an American aerospace and defense contractor, has recently acquired five Boeing 747 jets previously operated by Korean Air. These jets, which were initially utilized for standard passenger travel, will undergo conversion for specialized military use. This strategic move aligns with SNC’s ongoing involvement in enhancing the United States’ military capabilities.

The decision to purchase these jets comes amidst SNC’s recent success in securing a significant contract with the US Air Force. The company was awarded a $13 billion contract to develop a replacement for the E-4B Nightwatch, commonly referred to as the “Doomsday plane.” The E-4B Nightwatch serves as a vital airborne command center, renowned for its capability to withstand nuclear war scenarios and function as an emergency communication hub.

The five Boeing 747s acquired from Korean Air, valued at approximately $674 million, have been inactive for a significant period, primarily due to the global disruption in air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. SNC anticipates receiving the aircraft by the third quarter of 2025, according to reports from Reuters.

These jets are slated to replace the current E-4B Nightwatch, reinforcing the United States’ airborne military command capabilities. SNC will potentially develop a next-generation version of the “Doomsday plane,” ensuring that the US maintains a modernized command and control center in the skies, especially during national emergencies such as nuclear warfare.

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While a company spokesperson confirmed the acquisition, further details regarding the conversion process and specific military applications were not disclosed. However, it is evident that SNC’s involvement in developing critical national security assets aligns with the US military’s strategic objectives.

The US Air Force, recognizing the importance of modernizing its command and control infrastructure, assigned SNC the task of creating the Survivable Airborne Operations Center. This project, announced by the Defense Department, carries a deadline of 2036, highlighting the long-term commitment to enhancing national security capabilities.

Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokesperson, emphasized the significance of developing such critical national security assets. She stated, “The development of this critical national security weapon system ensures the Department’s Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications capability is operationally relevant and secure for decades to come.” The project involves the modification and hardening of commercial derivative aircraft to meet stringent military requirements, ensuring operational effectiveness and security.

In summary, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s acquisition of five Boeing 747 jets from Korean Air marks a significant step towards enhancing the United States’ military capabilities. With plans to convert these jets for specialized military use and develop a next-generation “Doomsday plane,” SNC underscores its commitment to supporting national security objectives and ensuring operational readiness in the face of emerging threats.

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