When it comes to Doomsday, it's not something most people think about. At least not until recently. In 2019, the doomsday clock that's controlled by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) changed the hands at 2 minutes to midnight ‐ it's the closest it's ever been to Doomsday since 1953. And in 1953, that was when the U.S. and the Soviet Union detonated the first hydrogen bomb. Yeah, scary.
What does this mean? When the Doomsday clock strikes midnight, it refers to the end of time. In many religions, this time described as when world events reach a final climax. Now, that's some scary stuff. And though we're closer than ever to Doomsday, the U.S. is well-prepared with their doomsday plane.
America's Special Fleet
If there was ever a nuclear conflict that destroys the ground communication of the U.S. military, the United States has a backup plan. The U.S. Air Force has E-4B "Nightwatch" planes, also known as the "doomsday plane." They even have one out of the four planes on a constant 24/7 standby. Based on either land or sea, this plane is the mode of transportation for the president if there's a nuclear war.
Though the plane sounds self-explanatory, there are many elements of the Nightwatch you don't know. Let's just say; it's definitely not your average plane.
The Nightwatch is nothing like an Air Force One
If you thought an Air Force One plane is intense, wait until you hear about the Nightwatch. This isn't just a plane. Instead, it's a flying Pentagon. The $223 million planes impenetrable by electromagnetic pulses, and weighs up to 800,000 pounds. Yeah, this isn't a small plane. But don't assume its size is a problem. The plane can reach up to speeds of 602 mph, which is faster than commercial planes.
It withstands nuclear explosions and asteroids
Yes, this plane actually exists. What's crazy about the Nightwatch is that it's designed to handle blasts from nuclear weapons, as it has thermo-radiation shields. The equipment inside the plane is so powerful that it needs its air-conditioning system to keep it a safe temperature.
One Nightwatch runs 24/7
Of course, the U.S. government doesn't keep all their Nightwatch planes on high-alert. Though they do keep one running 24/7 just in case, it may be needed. This specific plane is based at the Offutt Air Force Based in Omaha, NE. But where are the other planes?
It can refuel mid-air
You may have seen thriller movies where the plane runs out of fuel and is left no choice but to crash. However, the Nightwatch can remain in the air for several days without touching land. This is because it can refuel itself mid-air. The plane also has an emergency communication system that can communicate with submarines as well if landing appears to be too risky.
There's a reason why this plane is only used in nuclear doomsday situations; it's very expensive to run. Let's say hypothetically; there's a nuclear war. In that case, the president, chiefs of staff, and defense secretary would board the plane. Alongside them, a 112-person crew would run the aircraft. But, to keep the Nightwatch in the air costs around $159,000 per hour.
It was used during 9/11
When the tragic events of 9/11 occurred, it's believed the Nightwatch plane flew over the White House. Though the U.S. Government never confirmed the report or why they would deploy the Nightwatch, several news stations and civilians witnessed the plane.
No one is supposed to speak about the Nightwatch
Think of the Nightwatch like Fight Club. The first rule is never to speak about it. Well, obviously, we broke that rule. Though everyone knows the Nightwatch exists, the Air Force makes sure the information of these planes is kept on high-level secrecy. The U.S. military doesn't discuss with the media or public about these planes and for a good reason. In fact, no one else knows where the other three Nightwatch planes are being kept.
When it comes to a nuclear attack, one thing is for sure: the president of the United States is well taken care of. The Nightwatch is an unbelievable aircraft, but hopefully, we never have to see it.
Cover photo credit: Mathias1020 / Shutterstock.com