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Based on the Boeing 707-320 airliner, the E-6B Mercury is a strategically important airborne command post operated by the US Navy. The E-6 first entered service in 1989 and the fleet of 16 aircraft were the final new version of the Boeing 707 to be built. In 20021, one of the RAF's retired E-3D Sentry AWACS was acquired by the US Navy to be converted into a trainer for the mercury fleet.
The E-6B Mercury has a key role in the US military known as TACAMO which stands for Take Charge and Move Out. In the event of nuclear war, the Mercury is responsible to relaying launch orders to the US Navy's fleet of Nuclear Ballistic Missile submarines from the National Command Authority. In addition, should ground based systems and command structures be destroyed, the Mercury has a secondary role of acting as the primary command centre for ground based nuclear missile forces. This includes the ability to remotely launch Minuteman ICBMs from their silos.
The US Navy will be sending one of their prized E-6B Mercury's for static display at this year's Air Tattoo. The aircraft is being provided by VQ-4 from Tinker Air Force Base, the unit are known as the "Shadows". Photo Credit: Peter March