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E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post

Last updated: 22 Sep 2021


The E-6B Mercury is a communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft. It provides survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) between the president, secretary of defense, and U.S. Strategic Command. Two operational squadrons (“Ironmen” of VQ-3 and “Shadows” of VQ-4) deploy from their main Operating Base at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, supported by the TACAMO Weapons School and the fleet replacement squadron (the “Roughnecks” of VQ-7). They deploy aircrews to Forward Operating Bases at Travis Air Force Base, California; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.; and other locations, as directed.


Boeing derived the E-6A from its commercial 707 to replace the aging EC-130Q in the performance of the Navy's TACAMO mission. TACAMO links the National Command Authority (NCA) with naval ballistic missile forces during times of crisis. The aircraft carries a Very Low Frequency communication system with dual trailing wire antennas. The Navy accepted the first E-6A in August 1989.

The E-6B was conceived as a replacement for the Air Force's Airborne Command Post due to the age of the EC-135 fleet. The E-6B modified an E-6A by adding battlestaff positions and other specialized equipment. The E-6B is a dual-mission aircraft capable of fulfilling either the no-fail TACAMO mission or the airborne strategic command post mission and is equipped with an airborne launch control system (ALCS), which is capable of launching U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Navy accepted the first E-6B aircraft in December 1997 and the E-6B assumed its dual operational mission in October 1998. The E-6 fleet was completely modified to the E-6B configuration in 2003. 

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Communications relay for fleet ballistic missile submarines (A and B models) and airborne command post for U.S. Strategic forces (B model)

Contractor: The Boeing Company

Date Deployed: October 1998

Unit Cost: $141.7 million

Propulsion: Four CFM-56-2A-2 high-bypass turbofans

Length: 150 feet, 4 inches (45.8 meters)

Height: 42 feet, 5 inches (12.9 meters)

Wingspan: 148 feet, 4 inches (45.2 meters)

Weight:  342,000 lbs (155, 129 kg) maximum gross takeoff

Crew: 22


Point of Contact
Naval Air Systems Command
PMA-271 Public Affairs

47123 Buse Road Bldg. 2272
Patuxent River, MD 20670-5440

(301) 757 8690


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