Communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft. Provides survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control, and communications between the National Command Authority (NCA) and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces. Two squadrons, the "Ironmen" of VQ-3 and the "Shadows" of VQ-4 deploy more than 20 aircrews from Tinker Air Force Base, OK to meet these requirements.
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 first E-6B aircraft was accepted in December 1997 and the E-6B assumed its dual operational mission in October 1998. The E-6 fleet will be completely modified to the E-6B configuration by the year 2003.
Boeing derived the E-6A from its commercial 707 to replace the aging EC-130Q in the performance of the Navy's TACAMO ("Take Charge and Move Out") mission. TACAMO links the 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 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 E-6A mission or the airborne strategic command post mission and is equipped with an airborne launch control system (ALCS). The ALCS is capable of launching U.S. land based intercontinental ballistic missiles.