Story by Tara Copp, Stars and Stripes
A tornado that struck in Omaha, Nebraska last week damaged two of the “Doomsday” 747 aircraft that serve as the national command center for the United States in case of a military attack, the Air Force said Friday.
Offutt AFB, home to the nation’s four E-4B aircraft, was hit by the tornado on June 16. The planes are used by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State for international visits and maintain vital communications — including those with the country’s nuclear missile silos and nuclear-powered
submarines — in case of an attack.
Ten aircraft, including the two 747s, were damaged by the tornado, said Capt. Mark Graff, an Air Force spokesman. He said the other two 747s were not damaged by the tornado and can still be used as the national airborne operations center.
Of the base’s eight RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, seven had minor damage, Graff said. Six of the damaged planes have been returned to flight status, he said.
The tornado was fast-moving, said Col. Pat Ryder, an Air Force spokesman. “They attempted to hangar as many [planes] as they could. Obviously, some were damaged.”
Ryder said the primary E-4B — the one that is always on alert status — was not affected and that the Air Force is still assessing the level of damage to the two other 747s. The tornado also damaged buildings and trees on the Nebraska air base.