Rolls-Royce will be developing the next generation of America’s nuclear-proof doomsday planes


Rolls-Royce has been awarded a contract to supply technology for the next-generation version of the US Air Force’s E-4B aircraft, which is nicknamed the “doomsday plane” for its capability to withstand the effects of a nuclear blast. The E-4B is a modified Boeing 747-200, which was designed to serve as a flying command center that can be used by the President, Secretary of Defense, and other top military officials in the event of a national emergency, especially if ground-based command centers are destroyed. Originally created during the Cold War, the United States currently has an aging fleet of four E-4B jets that are becoming increasingly difficult to service and maintain.


American defense and aerospace contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation is leading a consortium of companies that are working on the $13 billion program to upgrade and/or replace the fleet of E-4B. While the exact nature of Rolls-Royce’s role in the Survivable Airborne Operations Centre (SAOC) project has not been revealed due to national security concerns, it is believed that the British engineering giant has been brought into the project to develop the plane’s propulsion systems. The SAOC project is expected to be completed by 2036.

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Adam Riddle, president of defense at Rolls-Royce, said: “For decades, Rolls-Royce has powered military operations around the world with reliable, cutting-edge technologies – safely transporting service members on their missions. Now, we are proud to pair our proven pedigree with the collective expertise of Sierra Nevada Corporation and the rest of the SAOC team to ensure our military leaders have the platform to protect our national security when it matters most.”

In the official press release, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s senior executive Jon Piatt said: “SNC is very excited to collaborate with Rolls-Royce, putting its vast experience to work on this crucial Air Force mission. We are certain that Rolls-Royce will prove a valuable partner in maintaining a strategic edge to protect the country when it matters most.”

The doomsday jets

The E-4B, aka the doomsday jet, is a critical component of the United States’ military command and control structure. The heavily modified Boeing 747-200 can operate in environments where traditional communication infrastructure has been destroyed. It is equipped with advanced shielding and hardening to protect against electromagnetic pulses (EMP) that might be generated by nuclear explosions. The plane has extensive and redundant communication systems, allowing it to communicate with U.S. military forces worldwide, including submarines, aircraft, and ground stations.

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The E-4B operational facilities include workspaces, conference rooms, briefing areas, and a secure executive suite for high-ranking officials. It also has an operations team to manage communication and command functions. With an air-to-air refueling capability, the doomsday plane can remain airborne for extended periods, potentially up to several days.

The E-4 program began in the early 1970s, with the first aircraft entering service in 1974. At least one E-4B is always on alert and ready to take off immediately. It also occasionally accompanies the President on international trips as a precautionary measure. The E-4B fleet remains a significant part of the United States national security infrastructure.

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Sayan Chakravarty, a Senior Writer at Luxurylaunches, brings over 10 years of automotive journalism expertise. He provides insightful coverage of the latest cars and motorcycles across American and European markets, while also highlighting luxury yachts, high-end watches, and gadgets. An authentic automobile aficionado, his commitment shines through in educating readers about the automotive world. When the keyboard rests, Sayan feeds his wanderlust, traversing the world on his motorcycle.