US 'Doomsday Plane' capable of surviving nuclear war arrives in Britain

Boeing aircraft can fly non-stop for six days with equipment designed to withstand electromagnetic blast

The USAF E-4B Nightwatch. Wikimedia Commons

An aircraft known as the “Doomsday Plane” that is capable of enduring the aftermath of a nuclear detonation has landed in Britain.

The arrival of the US Nightwatch plane from Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, comes amid fears of a nuclear strike by Russia, with its invasion of Ukraine stalled.

The aircraft, call sign GRIM99, is described as the Flying Pentagon and could be used as a centre of operations during a nuclear war.

Capable of flying 150 hours non-stop with the aid of airborne refuelling, the Boeing 747 is officially known as the National Emergency Airborne Operations Centre and is one of four such planes on constant standby.

Much of the aircraft’s equipment is secret, but it is known to carry nuclear and thermal shielding and enough communications for a US defence chief to direct a war.

It is used to transport the US defence secretary during a conflict, providing a back-up to the Pentagon. Its livery paintwork is similar to the US president’s Air Force One.

The four aircraft are based in Nebraska and have been operational since 1980. Each stands six storeys high and has four powerful General Electric engines equipped with huge fuel tanks to avoid the need to land and refuel during a nuclear exchange.

The plane's flight deck equipment is analogue, so it can withstand jamming or the electromagnetic pulse that follows a nuclear detonation.

YT Doomsday Clock

The “radome” hump on its back contains 67 different satellite dishes and antennae, giving the defence secretary and his commanders the ability to contact warships, submarines, aircraft and landlines around the world.

A crew of 112 people has the use of three decks, with 18 bunks beds, six bathrooms, a kitchen, conference room, briefing room and an operations centre.

The interior design is basic, with few modern-day comforts and no touch screens, as digital technology would be almost completely disabled during a nuclear exchange. However, the conference centre does have two 80-inch flat screen televisions.

It has a maximum speed of 969kph, can fly at 14,000 metres and has a take-off load of 377,000kg. The aircraft will remain in service until 2039.

Updated: March 25, 2022, 11:43 AM
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