Korean Air to sell 5 Boeing 747-8s for new USAF “Doomsday” plane program

Korean Air has agreed to sell five of its Boeing 747-8 passenger jets to Sierra Nevada Corporation, a major U.S. aerospace contractor tasked with developing the next generation of nuclear-survivable “Doomsday” planes for the U.S. Air Force.

The deal, valued at 918 billion South Korean won ($670 million), aligns with Korean Air’s long-term plans to replace its aging fleet with newer aircraft models, the airline said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

Sierra Nevada was awarded a $13 billion contract last month by the U.S. Air Force to produce the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) intended to replace the military’s current E-4B “Nightwatch” planes.

The E-4Bs are modified Boeing 747-200s designed to serve as airborne command centers that can withstand an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast.

“The four-engined 747s will eventually replace the USAF’s Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post aircraft,” reports Simple Flying. At least one E-4B is kept on 24/7 alert to assist national leadership in directing U.S. forces worldwide during emergencies.

After the sale, Korean Air will be left with just four 747-8 passenger jets remaining as it continues retiring older planes in favor of newer twin-engine models like the Airbus A350. The carrier expects to complete delivery of the five 747s to Sierra Nevada by September 2025.

Sierra Nevada plans to modify the newly acquired 747-8s as replacements for the aging E-4B fleet, with the SAOC program slated for completion by 2036 according to the Department of Defense.

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