A plane from the US “doomsday fleet” has arrived in Europe. The plane should also be able to be used as a command center during a nuclear war. What is behind the plane and why is it landing now?
A machine that is even supposed to survive a nuclear war: The US aircraft E-6B Mercury landed in Iceland on Tuesday, the European command of the US armed forces said on Twitter. Accordingly, the crew of the Mercury is also said to have met with the American Ambassador to Iceland, Carrin Batman and other military and diplomatic leaders.
The airplane with the meaningful nickname “doomsday airplane” has existed in a similar design since the Cold War. The E-6B Mercury is based on the Boeing 707, has a wingspan of around 45 meters and reaches a top speed of 981 kilometers per hour. Such a machine should cost at least 140 million US dollars, and the US Navy owns 16 of the military aircraft in total.
However, the E-6B Mercury is not a combat aircraft. Rather, it serves as a flying command center for the Navy. How “Firstpost“ reported, the plane was originally built to be able to communicate with nuclear submarines worldwide. These are equipped with ICBMs and nuclear warheads and can also be controlled from the aircraft.
E-6B Mercury to save presidents in an emergency
According to Firstpost, a “doomsday plane” is always close to the US President. It is usually located in a Washington DC suburb for easy access to the White House. When the President leaves the United States, an E-6B Mercury accompanies him and is stationed at a nearby military airfield.
In the event of a nuclear war, the President should be able to use the machine as a flying command center. With a full tank, it can even stay in the air for 72 hours. However, according to “Firstpost” it has never gotten that far, even George W. Bush is said to have preferred to travel with an Air Force One plane after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Russia also has so-called “doomsday planes” that can be used as a command and control center in an emergency. The converted Ilyushin Il-86 passenger planes, three of which are said to be still in service, are nicknamed the “flying Kremlin” in Russia.
Washington reacts to suspended disarmament treaty
The arrival of the “doomsday plane” in Iceland appears to be a pre-emptive measure in case the Ukraine war escalates. Fear of the use of nuclear weapons rose again after Vladimir Putin announced the suspension of the “START” agreement signed in 1991 at the end of February. With the agreement, the US and Russia had witnessed their gradual reduction of strategic nuclear weapons with intercontinental range.
The Russian Foreign Ministry justified the suspension of the treaty with the “extreme hostility” that would emanate from Washington. Likewise, a spokesman accused the US of “malicious escalation of the conflict in and around Ukraine.” Officially, the landing of the E-6B Mercury was not commented on by the Russian side. However, it is likely that Moscow understood the landing as an attempted show of US power.
- More on the topic: Guest article by Gabor Steingart – The Putin push seals the age of accelerated rearmament