10/11 NOW tours the E-4B Nightwatch Aircraft
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A fleet of E-4B’s, or Nightwatch Military Aircraft, has been calling Lincoln’s Airport home since last March while Offutt Air Force Base is being renovated. On Tuesday, 10/11 NOW was part of an exclusive media tour of one of the planes in the air. The tour was the first in over a decade.
The fleet of E-4B’s is part of the National Airborne Operations Center or NAOC. Their purpose is to provide the President, Secretary of Defense and Join Chiefs of Staff a survivable Command, Control and Communications Center to direct U.S. Forces on the ground.
“If the NAOC is executing its primary mission, that is a bad day for our nation,” said Col. Brian Golden, NAOC. “Boring is good.”
There are only four E-4B’s in the fleet. It’s called a hot-alert aircraft, meaning it’s already ready to take off in a matter of moments.
“It’s always in a state of readiness,” said Col. Golden. “All the communication systems, all 42 of them are on. Completely connected to everything and they’re all ready to go. What the jet does as a communications platform is making sure that senior leaders within the executive branch of the government is always connected.”
Inside the plane is the cockpit and maintenance room, the conference rooms and a private, soundproof room, used by people like Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. There is also the battle staff, where the crew is working to collect as much information as possible. They can call any landline, cellphone number or even video conference.
“It could be a national disaster, it could be a catastrophe somewhere over seas, it could be an attack on the United States,” said Maj. Johnathan Ryder, U.S. Army and part of the E-4B Crew. “While those things are happening we’re gathering that information in order to package that and paint the picture for senior leaders so they can make the right decisions.”
One E-4B is always on alert, two are usually on standby and almost always one E-4B is being repaired in Texas. The fleet manned by a mix of people from different military branches.
“I monitor for our strategic forces and provide advisement through the team chief for ways that we can utilize them,” said Lt. Commander Robert Huddleston. He’s from the Navy.
They said it’s important for the public to know what the E-4B is and how it can help.
“I want people to understand what we do,” said Green. “As a taxpayer, I want them to know what their money is doing. I want them to have confidence that our nation has communication capabilities in a time of a crisis.”
This fleet is expected to return to Offutt after renovations are complete in September.
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