Northrop Grumman delivers first upgraded E-6B Mercury aircraft to US Navy

U.S. Navy photo

Northrop Grumman delivered the first modified E-6B Mercury aircraft back to the US Navy under the Integrated Modification and Maintenance Contract (IMMC). 

The E-6B Mercury aircraft is a strategic communications platform operated by the US Navy. Derived from the commercial Boeing 707 aircraft, the E-6B serves as an airborne command, control, and communications hub. 

Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to upgrade the fleet to a new Block II standard in February 2022. According to the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the $111 million contract includes six major modifications to improve the aircraft’ command, control, and communications functions. 

“An incredible amount of work went into this aircraft, which can now perform its nuclear deterrence mission better than ever,” said Captain Adam Scott, program manager of the US Navy’s PMA-271 acquisition command. “During the past year, the team that fielded this capability worked tirelessly to implement improvements to deliver the Block II capability with urgency.” 

The US Navy operates a fleet of 16 aircraft known as the E-6B. These aircraft are utilized by Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons 3 (VQ-3), VQ-4, and VQ-7. Most of this fleet is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. 

The primary mission of the E-6B fleet is to fulfill the crucial “Take Charge And Move Out” (TACAMO) role. This involves ensuring reliable communication relay among various entities, including the Pentagon, the White House, US Navy bases, and Ohio submarines. The submarines are responsible for carrying out initial nuclear strikes through their submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) in the event of a thermonuclear conflict. 

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