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American firm buys 5 Korean air jets for next gen ‘nuclear doomsday’ plane conversion

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Sierra Nevada Corporation, an American company, has purchased five Boeing 747 jets previously operated by Korean Air. Initially serving as standard passenger planes for civilian day-to-day travel, these jets will reportedly undergo conversion for specialised military use. The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is the same company that recently won a US Air Force contract worth $13 billion to build a replacement for the E-4B Nightwatch, also known as the Doomsday plane.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight from Los Angeles approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport shortly after an announcement was made by the FAA that the planes were being grounded by the United States in Washington, US on March 13.(REUTERS)

Korean Air jets purchased by U.S. company for ‘Doomsday’ role

E-4B Nightwatch, known as Doomsday Jet is one of the most trusted jets renowned for its ability to survive a nuclear war and act as an emergency call centre. The five Korean-flagged Boeing 747s, valued at approximately $674 million, have been sitting on the tarmac for at least two out of the past five years due to the global air traffic disruption and slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. SNC will receive the aircraft by the 3rd quarter of 2025, according to a Reuters report.

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Korean jets to replace America’s E-4B Nightwatch

The current US Air Force relies on the E-4B Nightwatch, a Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, as its airborne military command centre. However, the aforementioned firm has been tasked to develop the next-generation nuclear doomsday plane to replace the current Nightwatch. Sierra Nevada Corporation will potentially develop the next-generation version of this “Doomsday plane,” ensuring the US has a modernized command and control centre in the skies during any national emergency, including nuclear war scenarios.

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On Friday, a company spokesperson acknowledged the acquisition report; however, they declined to provide any further details. The American Air Force assigned the company the duty of creating the Survivable Airborne Operations Center back on April 26. According to an announcement from the Defense Department, the project deadline is set for 2036.

Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokesperson told CNN, “The development of this critical national security weapon system ensures the Department’s Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications capability is operationally relevant and secure for decades to come. To satisfy operational requirements, the weapon system will be comprised of a Commercial Derivative Aircraft that will be hardened and modified to meet military requirements.”

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