A great video of the US Military E-4B Military aircraft. The Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, with the project name "Nightwatch", is a strategic command and control military aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). The E-4 series was specially modified from the Boeing 747-200B for the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) program. The E-4 serves as a survivable mobile command post for the National Command Authority, namely the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and successors. The four E-4Bs are operated by the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron of the 595th Command and Control Group located at Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska. An E-4B when in action is denoted a "National Airborne Operations Center".
An E-4 at El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia
The E-4 fleet was originally deployed in 1974, when it was termed National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) (often pronounced "kneecap"). The aircraft was to provide a survivable platform to conduct war operations in the event of a nuclear attack. Early in the E-4's service, the media dubbed the aircraft as "the doomsday planes". The E-4 was also capable of operating the "Looking Glass" missions of the Strategic Air Command (SAC).
The aircraft were originally stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, so that the U.S. President and Secretary of Defense could access them quickly in the event of an emergency. The name "Nightwatch" originates from the richly detailed Rembrandt painting, The Night Watch, that depicts local townsfolk protecting a town; it was selected by the Squadron's first commanding officer. Later, the aircraft were moved to Offutt Air Force Base where they would be safer from attack. Until 1994, one E-4B was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base at all times so the President could easily board it in times of world crisis.
The NEACP aircraft originally used the static call sign "Silver Dollar"; this call sign faded from use when daily call signs were put in use. When a President boards the E-4, its call sign becomes "Air Force One". The E-4B also serves as the Secretary of Defense's preferred means of transportation when traveling outside the U.S. The spacious interior and sophisticated communications capability provided by the aircraft allow the Secretary's senior staff to work for the duration of the mission.
With the adoption of two highly modified Boeing 747-200Bs (Air Force designation VC-25A) to serve as Air Force One in 1989 and the end of the Cold War, the need for NEACP diminished. In 1994, NEACP began to be known as NAOC, and it took on a new responsibility: ferrying Federal Emergency Management Agency crews to natural disaster sites and serving as a temporary command post on the ground until facilities could be built on site. Evidently no E-4B was employed during the Hurricane Katrina Disaster of 2005, though one E-4B was used by FEMA following Hurricane Opal in 1995.
E-4B and two C-32s at Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, Australia during bilateral defense talks, February 2008
The "cocked" or "on alert" E-4B is manned 24 hours a day with a watch crew on board guarding all communications systems awaiting a launch order (klaxon launch). Those crew members not on watch would be in the alert barracks, gymnasium, or at other base facilities. The 24-hour alert status at Andrews AFB ended when President Clinton ordered the aircraft to remain at Offutt unless needed, though relief crews remain based at Andrews and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. One E-4B is kept on alert at all times.
September 2001 to present
On 11 September 2001, an aircraft closely resembling an E-4B was spotted and filmed orbiting the Washington D.C. area by news outlets and civilians, after the attack on the Pentagon. In his book Black Ice, author Dan Verton identifies this aircraft as an E-4B taking part in an operational exercise, and the exercise was canceled when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Air traffic control recordings and radar data indicate this E-4B call sign VENUS77 became airborne just before 9:44 am, circled north of the White House during its climb, and then tracked to the south of Washington DC where it held in a holding pattern.
USAF E-4B 75-0125 in Hilo, Hawaii, December 2013
In January 2006, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced a plan to retire the entire E-4B fleet starting in 2009. This was reduced to retiring one of the aircraft in February 2007. The next Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates reversed this decision in May 2007. This is due to the unique capabilities of the E-4B, which cannot be duplicated by any other single aircraft in Air Force service, and the cancellation in 2007 of the E-10 MC2A, which was considered as a successor to the EC-135 and E-8