Sierra Nevada acquires Korean Air Boeing 747-8s for ‘Doomsday Plane’ replacement

U.S. Air Force photo

Korean Air has agreed to sell five Boeing 747-8s to US manufacturer Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in a deal worth approximately KRW918 billion ($674 million), a source familiar with the matter disclosed to Reuters.  

As stated in an exchange filing released on May 9, 2024, the transaction is expected to take place in September 2025. 

The move comes after SNC recently secured the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) contract from the US Air Force, which is tasked with developing a successor to the current E-4B Nightwatch aircraft fleet. Boeing’s exclusion from the competition for the E4-B’s replacement, revealed in December 2023, left SNC as the sole contender.  

The E-4 Nightwatch, a specialized Boeing 747-200 iteration, boasts protected avionics and cabins against electromagnetic interference and external radiation. With such conditions likely to occur after a nuclear attack, the E-4 earned the moniker of ‘Doomsday Plane.’ Its upgraded B standard, introduced in the 1980s, extends its operational autonomy to 72 hours, complementing its crucial role in national security. 

Four E-4Bs are in active service under the 1st Airborne Command Control Squadron, part of the 595th Command and Control Group stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. 

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