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America’s Doomsday Plane


You’ve all heard of Air Force One but what about the Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post “Nightwatch”? It’s an uncertain world and if there’s one country that protects itself perhaps even a little too much, it’s America. The Doomsday plane or better known as the Nightwatch is a heavily modified Boeing E-4. Equipped with 67 antennae, a protective radiation proof shell, satellite dishes and more unknown high-tech gear, the Nightwatch is a floating war room ready to unleash America’s nuclear arsenal at will.

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Above: The E-4 being tested to withstand an EMP blast.

The Nightwatch has been part of Operation Looking Glass since 1961 when Strategic Air Command began its inception. In an event of ground forces and command centers being destroyed from war, the Nightwatch assumes the control of the National Command Authorities and can then execute nuclear attacks. With roughly 112 personnel on board and a dedicated 20 man battle team, the Looking Glass is also used to keep continuation of government should the President die and so other members of office can assume power.

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While the Air Force One is the President’s luxury flying boat abroad, the Nightwatch serves to keep America running in event of disaster or nuclear war. There are four of these plane in existence (that we know of) and as America ramps up its assault on ISIL, you can bet that the Nightwatch will be more active than ever.

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Trip of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to South America

Below: The battle team playing video games.

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Role Airborne command post
Manufacturer Boeing
Introduction 1974
Status In service
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 4
Unit cost
US$223 million (1998 dollars)
Developed from Boeing 747-200