Rand: DOD Must Consider Updating National Airborne Operations Center

Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, testifying Wednesday before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee.? Screenshot photo.

The Defense Department is going to have to begin looking at modernizing the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, a top Air Force general told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

The NAOC, currently a militarized version of the Boeing 747-200, is designed to support the President and top defense officials during a national emergency or in case of destruction of ground command and control centers.

Testifying before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said while no money is in the Future Years Defense Program yet, “I think we are going to begin some very serious discussions in the next weeks and months to follow” not only on the NAOC but also the group of systems that include the Navy’s “Take Charge and Move Out” communications relay and airborne command post aircraft.

“I will pitch my opinions and ideas to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and to [US Strategic Command Commander] Gen. [John] Hyten, and there’s no doubt a need to get very serious about this,” he told the panel.

Also during the hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) pushed Rand and other witnesses to speed construction of a new missile defense silo field at Fort Greely in Sullivan’s home state, which has been requested by the Trump administration.

Sullivan challenged estimates he’d heard that the completion would take four or five years.

“So, we won World War II in four to five years,” he said adding that he thought that length of time is “unacceptable.”

One of the witnesses, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy Robert Soofer, started to note that weather is a factor, but Sullivan was not persuaded.

“Well, trust me, we built the Alcan Highway in World War II, which was 1,100 miles, … in eight months, right? We can do this stuff. We can do it. We’re American, we can do it. So the weather is not a big deal in Alaska, trust me,” he said.

At his request, the witnesses all agreed to accelerate the program.