Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been selected to replace the US Air Force’s “Doomsday” planes.

Under a $13 billion contract, SNC will replace the service’s aging fleet of four E-4B planes, also known as Nightwatch or the National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), with a new aircraft called the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC). The project is expected to be completed by July 2036.

The E-4B, a modified Boeing 747, serves as a mobile airborne command headquarters during a national emergency or in the event of the destruction of ground command and control centers. The aircraft is often referred to as the Doomsday plane.

This win marks a significant achievement for SNC, a mid-sized company. They aggressively pursued the contract, opening a dedicated 90,000-square-foot maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility at the Dayton, Ohio airport in July 2023. Notably, they were the only contender remaining after Boeing, the incumbent, opted out of the competition in late 2023 due to concerns about fixed-price contracts.

According to Forecast International’s International Military Markets – North America service, research and development for the program continues to ramp up. The Air Force requested $203.2 million in FY23 after receiving $50 million in FY21 and $95.8 million in FY22. However, Congress cut $105 million for the program in FY23. The FY24 request was ramped up to $888.8 million, which is $278 million more than originally planned. Funding will increase to $1.9 billion in FY25, with a total of $8.1 billion planned through the FYDP. The FY23 budget had only projected $3.2 billion over five years.