USAF Buys First Training Simulator for ‘Doomsday’ Fleet

Oklahoma-based CymSTAR will build the Air Force’s first training simulator for the E-4B “Doomsday” planes at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., the service said Oct. 14.

The four 1970s-era National Airborne Operations Center jets act as flying command centers in case the Air Force’s underground nuclear missile control posts are destroyed. Without a simulator, E-4B aircrews have to pull the planes from regular operations for training, or travel out of state to use a commercial Boeing 747 simulator.

“This effort will free up low-density, high-value assets for the mission, and save money because it’s cheaper to train on a simulator versus a real jet,” Col. John Kurian, senior materiel leader of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s simulators division, said in a release.

The $16 million contract covers a full-motion simulator for pilots and flight engineers that replicates an E-4B cockpit and lets aircrews train for aerial refueling. The Air Force last month said CymSTAR’s work would run through April 2022, when the first training-ready equipment is slated for delivery.

“The toughest concurrency to maintain is air refueling, due to the limited tanker training availability, so it’s critical that we deliver this simulator with day/night air refueling capability,” Richard Hricko, the division’s materiel leader for air combat simulators, said in the release. 

He added that housing the simulator close to the Airmen at Offutt, home to U.S. Strategic Command, will let people train more often and on short notice.

The Defense Department is in the early stages of replacing the E-4B with a cheaper commercial jet that can serve multiple nuclear command, control, and communications missions for the Air Force and Navy. That project, known as the Survivable Air Operations Center, may also offer an alternative to the military’s fleet of C-32s that federal officials use to fly around the world.

The Doomsday fleet can use the new simulator for about 20 years until the jets reach the end of their viable lifespans.