The E-4B serves as the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) for the
National Command Authorities. In case of a national emergency or destruction of ground command
control centers, the aircraft provides a modern, highly survivable, command, control and
communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by
The E-4B evolved from the E-4A, which had been in service since late-1974. The
first B-model was delivered to the Air Force in January 1980, and by 1985 all aircraft were
converted to E-4B standard. These aircraft are assigned to the 55th Wing, Offutt AFB, NE.
In August 1994, the E-4B assumed an additional role. With the approval of the JCS
chairman, the E-4B will support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) request for
assistance when a natural disaster occurs. The E-4B would be tasked to fly the FEMA Emergency
Response Team to the disaster site, and become the FEMA command and control center until the
emergency team's own equipment and facilities can be set up. With E-4B support, the emergency team's
response is a matter of hours, as opposed to days.
Air Combat Command (ACC) is the Air Force single-resource manager for the E-4B,
and provides aircrew, maintenance, security and communications support. The Joint Chiefs of Staff
actually control E-4B operations and provide personnel for the airborne operations center.
To provide direct support to the National Command Authorities, at least one E-4B
is always on alert at one of many selected bases throughout the world.
The E-4B is a militarized version of the Boeing 747-200. It provides approximately
triple the floor space of its predecessor, the EC-135 "Looking Glass"
airborne command post.
The main deck is divided into six functional areas: a National Command
Authorities' work area, conference room, briefing room, an operations team work area, and
communications and rest areas. An E-4B crew may include up to 114 personnel, including a joint-service
operations team, an ACC flight crew, a maintenance and security component, a communications
team and selected augmentees.
The aircraft 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 (SATCOM) system improves worldwide communications among strategic and tactical
satellite systems and the airborne operations center.
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