US Navy Receives First Upgraded E-6B Nuclear Strategic Communications Aircraft

The US Navy has received the first upgraded E-6B nuclear strategic communications aircraft from Northrop Grumman.

The plane was picked up at the company’s facility in Louisiana and flown to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where it will be based.

Northrop said five new kits were integrated into the E-6B to improve its command, control, and communications systems.

The upgrade will reportedly support the US Navy’s nuclear deterrence and ensure the president remains connected to the country’s nuclear arsenal in case of an attack.

Multiple E-6B Mercury aircraft are set to undergo Block II configuration by 2027, according to the navy.

‘A Monumental Achievement’

Upgrade work on the E-6B aircraft began last year under a $111-million contract.

The US Navy selected only one company for the entire modification to reduce bureaucracy and improve speed.

Program manager Adam Scott said an incredible amount of work had been done to improve the aircraft’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.

“During the past year, the team that fielded this capability worked tirelessly to implement improvements to deliver the Block II capability with urgency,” he explained.

E-6B deputy program manager Bob Stailey described the delivery as a “monumental” achievement, ensuring the service possesses the necessary tools to execute missions for years to come.

E-6B Mercury aircraft
Officials from the US Navy and Northrop Grumman pose in front of an upgraded E-6B Mercury aircraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman

The E-6B Aircraft

The US Navy’s E-6B Mercury is a strategic airborne command aircraft with a very low-frequency communication system.

Its main task is to connect the national command authority with the navy’s nuclear missile force aboard ballistic missile submarines.

The aircraft also executes the Airborne Command Post mission, which facilitates the launch of US land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in a crisis.

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