Boeing Drops Out Of USAF's 'Doomsday' Replacement Plane Competition

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Dec 02, 2023 - 07:35 PM

The US Air Force (USAF) eliminated Boeing Co. from the replacement competition of a half-century-old "Doomsday" plane that can survive a nuclear war. This leaves Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) as the sole remaining known competitor. 

Sources told Reuters that Boeing - the incumbent manufacturer of the E-4B Nightwatch - could not agree with the USAF on data rights and contract terms for the replacement plane that began flying in the 1970s. In other words, the planemaker did not want to sign a fixed-price agreement. 

"We are approaching all new contract opportunities with added discipline to ensure we can meet our commitments and support the long-term health of our business. We remain confident our [E-4B replacement] approach is the most comprehensive, technically mature and lowest-risk solution for the customer and Boeing," a Boeing spokesperson told the military blog Breaking Defense

Boeing added, "Our proposal is based on 60 years of military commercial derivative aircraft knowledge and experience, including the design, development, and sustainment of the E-4B Nightwatch, which currently serves the national security command and control mission." 

A review of Boeing's latest financials shows its defense unit lost a whopping $1.3 billion this year due to fixed-price development programs amid supply chain snarls, elevated inflation, and high interest rates. Since 2014, the planemaker has lost $16.3 billion on fixed-price programs. 

"Rest assured, we haven't signed any fixed-price development contracts nor (do we) intend to," Brian West, Boeing's chief financial officer, told investors in October. 

The USAF's four E-4B aircraft fleet dates back to the early 1970s and is used as a mobile command post for the National Command Authority, namely the US President.

The Survivable Airborne Operations Center is spearheading the move for the new replacement aircraft. The contract is scheduled to be awarded in the second quarter of 2024. SNC is the only known competitor to provide the USAF with a new Doomsday plane.