The E-4B serves as the National Airborne Operations Center and is a key component of the National Military Command System for the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command and control centers, the aircraft provides a highly survivable command, control and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities. The conduct of E-4B operations encompasses all phases of the threat spectrum. Additionally, the E-4B provides outside the continental United States travel support for the Secretary of Defense and his staff to ensure Title 10 command and control connectivity.
The E-4B, a militarized version of the Boeing 747-200, is a four-engine, swept-wing, long-range high-altitude airplane capable of refueling in flight. The main deck is divided into six functional areas: a command work area, conference room, briefing room, an operations team work area, communications area and rest area. An E-4B may include seating for up to 112 people, including a joint-service operations team, Air Force flight crew, maintenance and security component, communications team and selected augmentees.
The E-4B is protected against the effects of electromagnetic pulse and has an electrical system designed to support advanced electronics and a wide variety of communications equipment. An advanced satellite communications system provides worldwide communication for senior leaders through the airborne operations center. Other improvements include nuclear and thermal effects shielding, acoustic control, an improved technical control facility and an upgraded air-conditioning system for cooling electrical components.
To provide direct support to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the JCS, at least one E-4B NAOC is always on 24-hour alert, 7-days a week, with a global watch team at one of many selected bases throughout the world.
In addition to its national and NC2 mission, the E-4B provides support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides communications and command center capability to relief efforts following natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
Air Force Global Strike Command is the Air Force single-resource manager for the E-4B, and provides aircrew, maintenance, security and communications support. E-4B operations are directed by the JCS and executed through U.S. Strategic Command. USSTRATCOM also provides personnel for the joint airborne operations center battle staff.
The E-4B evolved from the E-4A, which had been in service since late 1974. The first B model was delivered to the Air Force in January 1980, and by 1985 all aircraft were converted to B models. All E-4B aircraft are assigned to the 595th Command and Control Group at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The 595th CACG aligned under Eighth Air Force October 1, 2016.
Primary function: Airborne operations center
Builder: Boeing Aerospace Co.
Power plant: Four General Electric CF6-50E2 turbofan engines
Thrust: 52,500 pounds each engine
Length: 231 feet, 4 inches (70.5 meters)
Wingspan: 195 feet, 8 inches (59.7 meters)
Height: 63 feet, 5 inches (19.3 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 800,000 pounds (360,000 kilograms)
Endurance: 12 hours (unrefueled)
Ceiling: above 30,000 feet (9,091 meters)
Unit cost: $223.2 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Crew: up to 112
Date deployed: January 1980
Inventory: active force, 4; Air National Guard, 0; Reserve, 0
(Current as of November 2016)
Video by Senior Airman Emili Koonce, American Forces Network – Osan; Tech. Sgt. Ashley Manz 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs.