Welcome to the “Doomsday” planes — America’s secretive set of jets designed to wage nuclear war from the skies.
The specially-designed aircraft follow president Donald Trump wherever he travels in Air Force One in case nuclear war erupts.
Known officially as National Airborne Operation Centers, they allow US leaders and wartime hawks to issue directives and wage war from the sky.
The Boeing E-4Bs costs around $250 million each to create and $160,000 per hour to operate.
They also feature a vast array of defense mechanisms, including the ability to withstand electromagnetic pulses.
The jet’s crews also use traditional analog flight instruments to navigate as they are less susceptible to cyber attack.
The planes, while not technically secret, are rarely mentioned — the Air Force does not even publicly acknowledge owning some of them.
In operation since the 1970s, these airborne command posts were long considered the best chance for a Cold War president to survive a nuclear attack.
Unlike the ceremonial and comfort-focused Air Force One, the E-4B airborne command posts are flying war-rooms staffed by dozens of military analysts, strategists and communication aides who would guide the president through the first days of a nuclear war.
The planes also include special gear like a five-mile-long trailing wire antenna that would ensure that the president could remain in contact with the nuclear submarine fleet even after ground-based communications had been destroyed.
Through the final decades of the Cold War, an E-4B Nightwatch plane always stood on alert at Andrews Air Force Base, ready to whisk the president skyward with just 15 minutes warning.
Even today, one of those four Doomsday planes, known to their crews as “Air Force One When It Counts,” regularly travels with or near the president at all times.
When the president is in the United States, an E-4B always remains on alert at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, its engines turning 24 hours a day, ready to launch and rendezvous with the president in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Yet even those Doomsday planes represent just one corner of the emergency air fleet at the president’s fingertips, all of which is easy to hide inside the large-scale logistics of a presidential trip.