The US Navy’s first E-6B Mercury aircraft has been inducted to undergo Block II modifications under a new integrated maintenance and modification contract (IMMC).

The aircraft has already arrived at Northrop Grumman’s Maintenance and Fabrication Centre in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Awarded in February, the five-year, $111m IMMC contract aims to field enhanced airborne strategic communications for the aircraft.

Airborne Strategic command, control and communications (C3) programme office (PMA-271) E-6B deputy programme manager Bob Stailey said: “This is an important event because it’s the first time a single company will be responsible for executing the entire installation.

“NGC Lake Charles built an integrated modification schedule that implements efficiencies and lessons learned from previous efforts.”

Under the Block II modification works, the company will provide six upgrades to enhance the E-6B’s C3 functions to connect the National Command Authority (NCA) with the US strategic and non-strategic forces.

Under the new IMMC, the modification turnaround time is expected to be six months. Earlier modification contracts had an average turnaround time of 19 months.

Stailey added: “We are fully engaged with the fleet and our partners as we reduce the time required for aircraft modifications.”  

The timeline reduction effort is claimed to be a team effort of Fleet Readiness Centre Southeast (FRCSE), Naval Air Warfare Centre Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 4, Strategic Communications Wing One (SCW-1), US Navy liaison officers, Defence Contract Management Agency and onsite programme representatives.

Built by Boeing, the E-6A Mercury aircraft is a part of the US Navy’s take charge and move out (TACAMO) missions.