Worldwide nuclear destruction is the plot device for what seems like every action movie involving the American government. It usually goes like this: The nation is on the brink of World War 3, a little red button is pushed in one of the world’s top countries, and missiles are blasted into the air. The country’s most senior military officials are all rushed to underground bunkers for protection and to continue to run the country.
Luckily for all of the world, that’s never come to fruition. If it ever did, however, underground bunkers likely wouldn’t be used.
The President would take to Air Force One, while the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff would board one of four Boeing E-4B planes. They’re also known as “Doomsday Planes” and they allow the nation’s leaders to be safe in the sky with full control of what happens on the ground.
The first Boeing E-4B was used by the Air Force in 1980, after upgrading from the E-4A, which was used since 1974. By 1985, all four Doomsday Planes were upgraded to E-4Bs.
The planes are over 230 feet long, 63 feet high, and have wingspans of nearly 196 feet. Each plane can hold up to 112 people, can be refueled during flight, and can withstand virtually any attack — chemical, biological and even nuclear.
To put it simply, it’s a flying bunker.
One of the four planes is always on standby, and is always close to the president in case of an AIr Force One malfunction. The other three planes serve as support craft for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes.