The E-4B serves as the National Airborne
Operations Center (NAOC) for the National Command Authorities.
In case of a national emergency or destruction of ground command
control centers, the aircraft provides a modern, highly
survivable, command, control and communications center to direct
U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions
by civil authorities.
The E-4B evolved from the E-4A, which had
been in service since late-1974. The first B-model was delivered
to the Air Force in January 1980, and by 1985 all aircraft were
converted to E-4B standard. These aircraft are assigned to the
55th Wing, Offutt AFB, NE. In August 1994, the E-4B assumed an
additional role. With the approval of the JCS chairman, the E-4B
will support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA)
request for assistance when a natural disaster occurs. The E-4B
would be tasked to fly the FEMA Emergency Response Team to the
disaster site, and become the FEMA command and control center
until the emergency team's own equipment and facilities can be
set up. With E-4B support, the emergency team's response is a
matter of hours, as opposed to days.
Air Combat Command (ACC) is the Air Force
single-resource manager for the E-4B, and provides aircrew,
maintenance, security and communications support. The Joint
Chiefs of Staff actually control E-4B operations and provide
personnel for the airborne operations center. To provide direct support to the National
Command Authorities, at least one E-4B is always on alert at one
of many selected bases throughout the world.