The US Navy has awarded a $111m contract to Northrop Grumman to modernise and maintain its E-6B Mercury dual-mission aircraft.

E-6B, a derivative of commercial Boeing 707 aircraft, is part of take charge and move out (TACAMO) strategic communications mission of the US Navy.

Under this five-year contract, Northrop Grumman will improve E-6B aircraft’s command, control, and communications (C3) functions.

The aircraft provides endurable, survivable, reliable airborne C3 links between the National Command Authority (NCA) and the US nuclear triad in emergency situations.

Northrop Grumman Defense Systems president and corporate vice-president Mary Petryszyn said: “We are laser focused on providing the most relevant capabilities while improving mission readiness.

“As leaders in aircraft sustainment and modernisation, the US Navy’s E-6B Mercury fleet is another example of our strong partnership with the navy in achieving those goals.”

Work related to this contract will be performed at the company’s Aircraft Maintenance and Fabrication Centre in Lake Charles, Louisiana, US. 

According to Northrop Grumman, a consolidated production line will be created to perform the main modifications on the aircraft.

The company will also possibly carry out other small modifications and select depot maintenance tasks, if needed.

Manufactured by Boeing for the US Navy, E-6B aircraft is the upgraded version of the E-6A.

The E-6B aircraft is equipped with an airborne launch control system (ALCS) to launch US land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Designed to operate in multiple frequency band communications, E-6B can relay and obtain secure and non-secure voice and data information.

Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies company, announced in December 2020 that it completed the upgrade of the US Navy’s E-6B Block I aircraft fleet.