Boeing Bows Out of US Air Force ‘Doomsday’ Plane Competition

Boeing has confirmed that it is no longer part of a US Air Force program to build a successor to its aging E-4B Nightwatch strategic command and control aircraft.

The competition aims to develop the so-called “Doomsday” plane, known as the Survivable Airborne Operations Center, capable of surviving a nuclear war.

The company and the air force could not agree on some contract terms, including data rights, according to a report by Reuters.

Boeing also reportedly refused to sign a fixed-price agreement requiring it to defray additional production costs when an agreed limit is reached.

As early as October, the American aerospace firm indicated it would move away from fixed-price contracts after its defense unit lost $1.3 billion on fixed-price programs this year.

Lone Competitor

With Boeing out, Sierra Nevada Corporation becomes the only competitor vying for the potential $8.3-billion contract.

It is unclear if other companies submitted bids and if they would be reconsidered for the competition.

“We cannot discuss an active source selection and detailed program information is classified,” a spokesperson told the outlet.

The US Air Force said it plans to award a contract in 2024.

Air Force E-4B
An Air Force E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft sits at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia. Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison/US Air Force

About the Competition

The Survivable Airborne Operations Center competition aims to replace the four Boeing-made E-4B Nightwatches in service with the US Air Force since the 1970s.

According to the air force, the highly modified 747-200 jumbo jets have become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain.

They will reach the end of their service life in the early 2030s.

Once the E-4B is decommissioned, the new Doomsday plane will take over all of its functions, including acting as a command center during a nuclear event and serving as the official transport plane of the US Secretary of Defense.

It should have an improved nuclear-proof capability to allow US leaders to deliver orders to the military in a national emergency.

The Doomsday must also have increased flight endurance since at least one should always stay on alert.

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