Tornado Damages Doomsday Planes
They’re said to be the Air Force’s indestructible last line of defense but two of four E-4B airborne command post aircraft have been taken out by the Nebraska weather. The two aircraft, based on Boeing 747-200B civilian airliners, were damaged by a tornado that hit Offutt Air Force Base on June 16. Seven RC-145 reconnaissance planes, which are Boeing 707 derivates, suffered minor damage but six were quickly returned to service. The Air Force did not detail the damage to the big planes, officially designated as the National Airborne Operations Center when they're airborne, but did confirm they have been taken off the flight line.
Neither of the affected aircraft was the “alert” aircraft at the time and the Air Force told Air Force Times that the mission can still be carried out with the two airworthy aircraft. No timeline for repair of the pricey aircraft, sometimes referred to as “doomsday planes” for their central role in the event of a nuclear attack or major disaster. The aircraft are the preferred mount for the Secretary of Defense when he travels and an E-4B shadows the president when he goes out of the country, landing at a neighboring airport as a backup to Air Force One.