The E-6B Mercury and Its Role in Strategic Nuclear Defense

The E-6B Mercury is a highly advanced command and control aircraft that is an essential element of the US nuclear defense strategy. Developed from the Boeing 707-320, the E-6B Mercury is equipped with advanced avionics and communication systems, including a VLF communication system that enables it to connect with the US fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Its mission is to provide a survivable and reliable communication link between the National Command Authority and the US nuclear forces in the event of full-blown nuclear war. The E-6B Mercury is equipped with four distinct mission sets, including the Airborne Launch Control System, Strategic Command and Control System, and Plans & Targeting. Its top-tier crews and aviators can launch sea and land-based nuclear missiles, and it can operate for up to 72 hours with in-flight refueling. The E-6B Mercury is shielded to survive a nuclear blast and an electromagnetic pulse from nuclear weapons detonating below and is the last line of defense against a large-scale nuclear conflict.


Specifications of the Boeing E-6B Mercury aircraft:

  • Manufacturer: Boeing Aerospace Company

  • Role: Airborne Command Post and Communications Relay

  • First Flight: 1987

  • Introduction: 1989

  • Retired: N/A

  • Status: Active service

  • Primary User: United States Navy

  • Number Built: 16 (E-6A), 16 (E-6B)

  • Crew: 22 (16 officers, 6 enlisted)

  • Length: 46.6 meters (153 feet)

  • Wingspan: 44.4 meters (146 feet)

  • Height: 12.9 meters (42 feet)

  • Empty Weight: 60,780 kg (133,974 lbs)

  • Max Takeoff Weight: 145,150 kg (320,000 lbs)

  • Powerplant: 4x CFM International CFM56-2A-2 turbofan engines

  • Maximum Speed: 980 km/h (609 mph)

  • Cruise Speed: 800 km/h (500 mph)

  • Range: 12,200 km (7,600 miles)

  • Service Ceiling: 12,500 meters (41,000 feet)

  • Avionics: AN/APS-133 color weather radar, LTN-211 VLF Omega, Smiths SFM 02 digital/analog flight management system, and advanced communications equipment.

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