Boeing E-4B


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 civil authorities.


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.


Official DesignationE-4B ‘NAOC’
National Airborne Operations Center
Primary RoleAirborne operations center
National OriginUSA
Original ContractorThe Boeing Company
OperatorUnited States Air Force
Wingspan195 feet, 8 inches (59.7m)
Length231 feet, 4 inches (70.5m)
Height at Tail63 feet, 5 inches (19.3m)
EnginesFour General Electric CF6-50E2 turbofans
Thrust52,500 pounds (234kN) per engine
Cruise SpeedUnknown
Max SpeedUnknown
Endurance12 hours (unrefueled)
Service CeilingAbove 30,000 feet (9,091m)
Operating WeightUnknown
Max Takeoff Weight800,000 pounds (360,000kg)
Basic CrewUp to 114
Date Deployed1980
Total in ServiceFour aircraft