E-6B Mercury/TACAMO

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Product Type:

Airborne Command Post and Communications Relay Aircraft

Using Service (US):


Program Status:


Prime Contractor:

The Boeing Company

The Boeing E-6B Mercury/TACAMO

About the E-6B Program:

The U.S. Navy's E-6B Mercury (formerly E-6A Hermes) is a modified Boeing 707-320B, which is uniquely configured to perform Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO), Airborne Command Post, and Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) missions. The E-6B is powered by four CFM International CFM56-2A2 high-bypass turbofan engines, each delivering 24,000 pounds of thrust. As of March 2012, there are 16 E-6B aircraft in the Navy's inventory.

Boeing derived the older E-6A from its commercial 707-320B platform to replace the U.S. Navy's aging fleet of EC-130Q TACAMO aircraft. TACAMO links the National Command Authority (NCA) with naval ballistic missile forces during times of crisis. The Navy accepted the first E-6A in August 1989 with the final 16th aircraft delivered in 1992.

The E-6B was designed to replace the Air Force's fleet of EC-135 Airborne Command Post aircraft. The E-6B is simply a modified E-6A with added battlestaff positions and other specialized equipment. The E-6B is a dual-mission aircraft capable of fulfilling either the E-6A TACAMO mission or the airborne strategic command post mission. Also, the aircraft is equipped with an airborne launch control system (ALCS). The ALCS is capable of launching U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). In charge of upgrading the E-6As to the E-6B configuration, Boeing replaced more than 100 analog cockpit instruments with six flat-panel digital displays and dual flight management systems. Cockpit improvements were taken from the more modern Boeing 777 and 737NG commercial airliners (glass cockpit). Boeing also integrated new battle management command and control communications equipment that link the E-6B to the Navy's airborne strategic command and control system. The first E-6B aircraft was accepted in December 1997 and the E-6B assumed its dual operational mission in October 1998. By December 2006, Boeing had modified all aircraft to the E-6B configuration.

The E-6B has a normal crew complement of 13 (three pilots, two naval flight officers, and eight enlisted men). In wartime, the E-6B has a battlestaff Crew of 22. All 16 E-6B aircraft are stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma and operated by the VQ-3 "Ironmen" and VQ-4 "Shadows" squadrons.

The E-6B is currently undergoing significant upgrades and modifications, including a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) designed to extend the life of the E-6B to 2040. E-6B aircraft are expected to reach the end of their service life of 45,000 hours around 2040. E-6B modifications and upgrade contractors include The Boeing Company (Airframe and ADWS/Avionics); Rockwell Collins and L3 Technologies (Block I); Lockheed Martin (Mission Computer Set); and L3/VERTEX (contractor logistics support).




The primary mission of the E-6B is to serve as a communications relay platform for very-low frequency transmissions to U.S. nuclear forces (TACAMO). Additionally it performs as Airborne Command Post for the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). Also, it can assume the role as a back-up for ICBM launches (ALCS).

FY 2020 & FY 2021 - E-6B DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), The Boeing Company,
and CFM International.

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