Used 747-8s Likely Next Command And Control Aircraft


A couple of weeks after it secured a $13 billion contract to supply the Air Force’s replacement for the E-4B Nightwatch airborne command and control aircraft, Sierra Nevada Corporation bought five Boeing 747-8s from Korean Airlines for about $135 million each. The contract stipulates four-engine aircraft for what has been renamed the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC). SNC hasn’t confirmed the Korean planes will be used for the contract, but there’s not much doubt about that. The 747 is no longer in production so the used market was the only place to go for replacement platforms.

The airline announced the sale, noting it’s part of a fleet modernization program that will see the acquisition of modern twin-engine long-range aircraft. SNC has until 2036 to deliver the new planes, which will be crammed with electronics hardened to withstand the electromagnetic energy of nuclear attacks so that battle front communications and nuclear weapons control can be maintained.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


    • That’s what I’m thinking. Technology is changing so rapidly (and whos the enemy), it is hard to imagine what will be needed by then. I’m assuming the persons of wisdom with this program are certainly considering that.

    • Yes, requirements can change, and that’s why long term contracts generally have change procedures built in.

      What do we do instead – wait 12 years and then spec it out?

  1. It took 10 years to build the Panama Canal.

    It took 1 year and 4 months to build the Empire State Building.

    It took 4 years and 4 months to build the Golden Gate Bridge.

    At this rate the time needed to convert these existing airframes will be the same as that high-speed rail debacle in Cali……..