US AIR FORCE Boeing E-4B national command-and-control aircraft are to be upgraded to act as airborne operations centres for the US Secretary of Defense. The four modified 747s are to be equipped with a fibre-optic communications "backbone", or local-area network, and UHF and commercial satellite-communications (satcom) capability.

The upgrade was ordered in October 1994 by defence secretary William Perry as the aircraft "...cannot provide the high-quality voice and data communications needed...[when] used as airborne operations centres," says the USAF.

UHF satcom will enable the E-4B to transmit and receive secure digital voice and data. L-band satcom via Inmarsat satellite will connect the aircraft with the terrestrial telephone system.

The upgrade will be performed during normal scheduled depot maintenance, as one E-4B has to be available at all times.

Source: Flight International