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26 December 2008
A 747 Causes Quite A Stir Over Tulsa
Posted: Dec 11, 2008 01:23 PM
A 747 Causes Quite A Stir Over Tulsa
E-4B fact sheet [U.S. Air Force]
By Richard Clark, News On 6
TULSA, OK -- A huge military airplane drew a crowd Thursday morning when it conducted some touch and go landings at Tulsa International Airport. The plane was a military version of the Boeing 747, officially designated the E-4B Nightwatch.
The Pentagon calls the E-4B the National Airborne Operations Center or NAOC. It was converted from the airline version of the 747 so it could be used by the president, secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In the event of a national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the aircraft provides a command, control and communications center that would be hard for an enemy to locate.
The E-4B's were first deployed in 1974, when they were known as the National Emergency Airborne Command Post or NEACP, which was pronounced "Kneecap".
In 1994, NEACP's name was changed to NAOC and the aircraft took on another responsibility: carrying FEMA crews to the sites of natural disasters where it serves as a temporary command post on the ground until more permanent facilities can be set up.
A division of the Air Force called Air Combat Command provides the maintenance and flight crews, but the planes' operations are coordinated by Strategic Command, which in turn answers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Strategic Command coordinates all of the Pentagon's strategic assets, regardless of whatever branch of service they serve.
In addition to the aircraft's status as an important national security asset, that command structure can make it a challenge to get details about its operation, including Thursday morning's training session in Tulsa.
We do know the E-4B's are flown by the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron from the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. The Squadron has a total of four. The airplanes used to be kept at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, but were moved to the Midwest so they'd be safer from attack.
One E-4B and its crew stays on full alert at all times. One stays relatively close to Air Force One so that the President can access it quickly from anywhere in the world.
It's possible an E-4B could return to Tulsa and do more touch and go landings at any time. But the Air Force isn't saying when, or if, that will happen.
The E-4B serves as the National Airborne Operations Center for the president, secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff or JCS. In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the aircraft provides a highly survivable, command, control and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities.
Air Combat Command is the Air Force single-resource manager for the E-4B, and provides aircrew, maintenance, security and communications support. E-4B operations are directed by the JCS and executed through U.S. Strategic Command. USSTRATCOM also provides personnel for the airborne operations center.
The E-4B, a militarized version of the Boeing 747-200, is a four-engine, swept-wing, long-range, high-altitude airplane capable of being refueled in flight. Its larger size provides approximately triple the floor space of the earlier EC-135 command post.
The main deck is divided into six functional areas: a command work area, conference room, briefing room, an operations team work area, and communications and rest areas. An E-4B crew may include up to 112 people, including a joint-service operations team, an ACC flight crew, a maintenance and security component, a communications team and selected augmentees.
The E-4B has electromagnetic pulse protection, an electrical system designed to support advanced electronics and a wide variety of new communications equipment. Other improvements include nuclear and thermal effects shielding, acoustic control, an improved technical control facility and an upgraded air-conditioning system for cooling electrical components. An advanced satellite communications system improves worldwide communications among strategic and tactical satellite systems and the airborne operations center.
To provide direct support to the president, secretary of defense and the JCS, at least one E-4B is always on alert at one of many selected bases throughout the world.
|An Air Force E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft sits at
the international airport in Bogota,Colombia Oct. 3, waiting for Secretary
of Defense Robert M. Gates. U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison)
|Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates holds a press availability onboard
a E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft after a trip to Bogota,
Colombia, Oct. 3, 2007. DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force.
|US Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Donald H. Rumsfeld takes a rest after
briefing with Department of Defense (DoD) personnel while aboard Startegic
Communications (STRATCOM) E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC)
aircraft during a flight to Southwest Asia. Secretary Rumsfeld is traveling
to Southwest Asia to visit the troops in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib. Photographer's
Name: TSGT JERRY MORRISON, JR., USAF.
|An E-4B advanced airborne command post aircraft (AABNCP) of the 1st Airborne
Command and Control Squadron, 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, sits on
the flight line. Photographer's Name: TSGT Scott P. StewartLocation: OFFUTT
AIR FORCE BASE.
|A team of National Airborne Operations Center airmen uncouples satellite
feeds, secures the scene and heads upstairs for battle stations on an E-4B
aircraft in a prelaunch response. This image was the cover photo for the
May 2000 Airman Magazine "Around the clock with the E-4B." Photographer's
Name: MSGT Dave Nolan, USAFLocation: OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE.
|An E-4B aircraft is refueled on the flight line. Photographer's Name:
Unknown. Location: OSAN AIR BASE. Date Shot: 10/1/1980
|Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, NE