The US Navy’s E-6B Mercury “doomsday” aircraft, designed to survive nuclear war was grounded after striking a bird on October 2nd.
The E-6B Mercury aircraft, assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 at Maryland-based Naval Air Station Patuxent River, suffered at least $2 million in damages after it sucked a bird into one of its four engines.
A test and evaluation team were on board at the time conducting a system test, Tim Boulay, a spokesman for Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division said. There were no injuries.
It was unclear what species of bird was sucked into the engine. It is unlikely that the bird was some sort of Russian spy, but who knows, really. Luckily, in the case of nuclear war it is unlikely that there would be birds flying around, so the aircraft is probably safe.
“We don’t know for sure,” Boulay said in an email.
The “Class A” mishap, signaling more than $2 million damages, death or permanent disability, was the first aviation incident of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, according to Naval Safety Center records.
Boulay further said that the engine had been replaced and the E-6B Mercury was back in service and the incident was being investigated.
The $141 million Mercury aircraft plays a key role in the Navy’s “Take Charge and Move Out,” or TACAMO, mission.
The E-6B Mercury has previously been described as the “deadliest plane you’ve never heard of”. That’s despite it not carrying any weapons of its own.
The aircraft serves as an airborne command and control post, and connects the nuclear triad of “boomer” submarines, Air Force strategic bombers and LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile crews, to the president and defense secretary.
The incident is the 2nd time an E-6B Mercury aircraft was grounded by a bird, according to Safety Center data. Another warplane that was grounded by a bird was a F-35B fighter jet.
The same E-6B Mercury aircraft had another “Class A” mishap in 2019 alone. In February, the tail of the aircraft clipped the top of a hangar while it was being towed.
Only one person was aboard and no one was injured during the February incident, but the financial cost was still very high. It, again, involved damages of approximately $2 million.
The E-6B Mercury was manufactured by Boeing, it would act as an airborne command post during a nuclear war and as such it is designed to survive such a scenario. It’s been active since July 1989. It has a crew of 22. It’s 46 meters long, has a 45-meter wingspan, and has a height of 12.8 meters. It can travel at a max speed of 970 km/h and up to a range of 12,230 kilometers. It has an endurance of 10 hours 30 minutes without refueling and 72 hours with multiple refuellings.