US terrifying nuclear doomsday plane and why it could come back

Inside the Doomsday Plane

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For a particular generation, the Sixties was a period when love became free, the world became less complicated, more peaceful. Mainstream figures like The Beatles listened to by millions around the world, pleaded with leaders that the Vietnam War be put to bed, and all other wars for that matter. But as much as they were marked by a new way of thinking, the Sixties followed a trend of paranoia, conflict, uncertainty, and a new deadly threat posed by the Eastern Bloc and Soviet Russia. Many military strategies were drawn up to deal with what would be coined the Cold War, including US’ Operation Looking Glass, a way to ensure that if Soviet Russia ever prevailed, Washington’s power was never lost, even if the nation itself was destroyed.

For 29 years Operation Looking Glass, a Boeing EC-135C plane built for US military strategies, was airborne, continually flying to ensure Washington’s strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the promise of nuclear fire being met with nuclear fire, was never halted.

From its original launch on February 3, 1961, until its landing on July 24, 1990, Operation Looking Glass was designed to transfer control codes for the US’ intercontinental ballistic missile systems (ICBM) should the then-Soviet Union launch an attack on Washington.

Irrespective of what was happening on the ground, an EC-135C would always be present in the sky.

The aircraft was crewed by 22 people, who would be on hand to unleash whatever weapons were needed to control the US’ enemies.

Despite the so-called doomsday plane being grounded 23 years ago, the plane, which is now a modern incarnation of the Boeing 707, remains on red alert, forever prepared to jet off from its base and up into the sky to carry out its lethal errands.

Yet, given current global tensions, which have left many convinced a third world war could erupt as a result of Moscow’s bloody battle with Ukraine, the prospect of Operation Looking Glass taking to the skies again has been muted.

Among those to call for the plane to make a comeback is former US government whistleblower, and accident investigator, Dr Alan Diehl, who told that it would make sense “for the US to increase the readiness” of programmes like Operation Looking Glass and its Nightwatch scheme.

Nightwatch, a Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, is described as the strategic command and control aircraft which is noted as the “survivable mobile command post” for the US President, the Secretary of Defense and their successors, in the event of a world-changing occurrence.

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As both Operation Looking Glass and Nightwatch are there to ensure continuity and the reconstitution of the US government, they are often interlinked.

When Operation Looking Glass was launched, it acted as a deterrent to Moscow, with Washington believing that having such an aircraft prepared to launch nukes at Russia, in any event, kept their Soviet rival’s military power unused.

And given the ongoing tensions, Dr Diehl is convinced that the US would be “justified” if it were to relaunch Operation Looking Glass or Nightwatch.

He explained: “There are several reasons why the US should update and increase the readiness level of these Nightwatch systems. And perhaps even order additional units, so one could be always kept ready and nearby wherever the President and Vice President are located.

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“They are now currently based near the strategic command headquarters in Nebraska. Interestingly, Boeing has just shut down the 747 production and might extend such work to manufacture several of these new platforms rather than converting older airframes.”

Dr Diehl, who is also a published author and aviation research psychologist, outlined six major reasons why the time was right for its relaunch, including scenarios where it would be “timely and prudent” to do so.

Firstly, the US would require it for an “intentional preemptive strike by Russia” on the US. He also noted that the “accidental launch of a nuke, due to either human or mechanical error” would also justify it.

He also said that the “intentional launch of a nuke by a rogue military officer [or the] intentional clandestine use of nuclear or dirty bomb by a third-party (perhaps a terrorist group trying to precipitate a global nuclear conflict between NATO and the Russians) [as well as the] growing hostility between the West and China over Taiwan” were other possible reasons why the operations may be needed.

He concluded that a “preemptive ICBM attack by North Korea” would also warrant such systems to be in place.

Dr Diehl added: “While all such scenarios are unlikely, the consequences of any one [of them] would be catastrophic. Thus, the relatively minimal investment in an enhanced Nightwatch’s capability would be prudent, and should decrease the likelihood of any of these occurrences.”

Operation Looking Glass came back to prominence in 2020 as the world was ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. After testing positive for the virus, then-US President Donald Trump was placed on a crisis aircraft, a E-6B Mercury, which had similar round-the-clock, emergency duties as its predecessor.

Forbes, which called the machine a “doomsday plane”, noted how in the event of a nuclear war, the E-6B would relay “information and help submarine crews target their attacks on enemy cities and military bases with nuclear Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles”.

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