The E-4B is a highly survivable flying C3 center enabling national leaders to direct nuclear and conventional forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate civil response actions in support of the National Military Command System (NMCS).
It is hardened against the effects of nuclear detonations, including electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Comms and data processing capabilities include EHF Milstar satcom, six-channel International Maritime Satellite, and a triband radome houses the SHF communications antenna. All aircraft underwent Block 1 upgrades, enhancing electronic and communications infrastructure with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems.
Ongoing upgrades includes replacing Milstar data links with AEHF-compatible FAB-T, replacing the VLF/LF transmitter, and starting in FY21 replacing legacy SHF with Survivable Super High Frequency (SSHF) enabling uninterrupted, jam-resistant nuclear C2 fleetwide by 2023.
E-4B airframes are viable to approximately 2033, but phaseout of commercial 747-200s hampers continued sustainment.
USAF plans to replace the E-4B with the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) and issued a request to industry for development of up to four, potentially used, but similarly sized commercial-derivative airframes in December 2020. Changes to acquisition strategy delayed initial solicitations, but the service aims to issue a development contract by late 2021.
Contractors: Boeing; Raytheon (FAB-T); L3Harris (SSHF).
First Flight: June 13, 1973 (E-4A); June 10, 1978 (E-4B).
Delivered: December 1974-1985.
IOC: December 1974 (E-4A); January 1980 (E-4B).
Aircraft Location: Offutt AFB, Neb.
Active Variant: •E-4B. Modified Boeing 747-200 equipped as a NAOC.
Dimensions: Span 195.7 ft, length 231.3 ft, height 63.4 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 800,000 lb.
Power Plant: Four General Electric CF6-50E2 turbofans, each 52,500 lb thrust.
Performance: Speed 602 mph, range 7,130 miles, 12-hr normal endurance, 72-hr with air refueling.
Ceiling: Above 30,000 ft.
Accommodation: Two pilots, navigator, flight engineer, up to 110 battle staff/mission crew.