USAF ‘Doomsday Plane’ Pilots Get New E-4B Simulator

The simulator is the first high-fidelity, full-motion training device that replicates E-4B flying operations and aerial refueling, the Air Force said.

Maj. Jon Grossrhode (left), an E-4B pilot from the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron, and Master Sgt. Sean Killian, a flight engineer from 595th command and Control Group, perform acceptance testing inside the new E4-B flight simulator. [U.S. Air Force photo: L. Cunningham]

The U.S. Air Force has taken delivery of a new high-fidelity, full-motion flight simulator for the E-4B Nightwatch "Doomsday Plane" that will allow pilots and flight engineers to train for flight operations of the aircraft described as a flying Pentagon.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Simulator Division delivered the E-4B simulator to the 595th Command and Control Group at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, earlier this month. The simulator is designed to replicate flight operations and aerial refueling for the aircraft that is designed to serve, if necessary, as a command platform for high-level military operations, including a U.S. nuclear weapons strike. 

“With the E-4B simulator, aircrew now have a tremendous capability that enables them to gain proficiency in flight procedures as well as practice dangerous emergency situations that cannot be performed in the aircraft,” Maj. David Meyn, E-4B program section chief, said in a statement. “For example, shutting down multiple engines or practicing recovery from stall conditions would not be attempted on the aircraft but can be performed safely in the simulator.” 

An Air Force E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft sits at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia. [File photo: U.S. Air Force]

The new simulator replaces a representational Boeing 747 training device located in Florida and reliance on training sorties that had become limited due to high mission operational need, the service said.

“This simulator is the first of its kind and it’s one of a kind,” Meyn said. “It will provide training capability not available previously and eliminate the need to take E-4Bs out of operations, which will increase aircraft availability and reduce hours on the aircraft.” 

The Air Force maintains a fleet of four of the flying war room aircraft, which are officially called the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC). The aircraft are able to fly for weeks or longer with aerial refueling, and have been retrofitted to be survivable in the event of a nuclear strike.

In late March as President Joe Biden traveled in Europe for NATO meetings linked to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, one of the Doomsday airplanes was spotted in the region by ADS-B tracking apps.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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