EDWARDS AFB, Calif. -- A U.S. Navy E-6B recently completed testing at Edwards and returned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Feb. 7.
The E-6B Mercury is a communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft. It provides survivable, reliable and endurable airborne command and control, and can communicate between the National Command Authority and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces. The Navy has two squadrons, the "Ironmen" of VQ-3 and the "Shadows" of VQ-4, which deploy more than 20 aircrews from Tinker AFB to meet these requirements, according to the Navy.
“They were here executing flutter and loads testing on the E-6B with Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link modification incorporated, said Sawn Sandland, 418th Flight Test Squadron program manager. “This modification includes three changes to the outer mold line of the E-6B consisting of three new radomes.”
The Navy periodically brings an E-6B to Edwards for testing. Sandland said base support includes supplying facilities, providing chase planes and range usage and data collection.
“They chose Edwards because of predicted clear weather during the test campaign. Unfortunately, it rained just about every day the first week they were here.”
According to the Navy, 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 E-6B is a modified E-6A with added battle staff positions and other specialized equipment.
The E-6B is a dual-mission aircraft capable of fulfilling either the E-6A’s mission of linking the NCA with naval ballistic missile forces, or the airborne strategic command post mission, and is equipped with an airborne launch control system. The ALCS is capable of launching U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The first E-6B aircraft was accepted by the Navy in December 1997 and the E-6B assumed its operational missions in October 1998. The E-6 fleet was completely modified to the E-6B configuration in 2003.