The US Air Force issued a request for information (RFI) on July 31, to support an analysis of alternatives (AoA) study to replace three current specialised aircraft, with versions of a single aircraft, ideally an of-the-shelf twin-engine business jet design. The three aircraft are the four Boeing E-4B National Air Operations Center (NAOC) aircraft, the four Boeing C-32A executive airlift aircraft and the 16 US Navy Boeing E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post and Take-Charge and Move-out (TACAMO) jets.
The proposed single replacement has been designated NEAT, an acronym from the initials of the mission areas, National air operations centre, Executive Airlift and TACAMO, three missions served by a common airframe. The AoA is also likely to look at the possibility of other alternatives.
The RFI calls for submission of “innovative industry solutions to accomplish the missions performed by the E-4B, E-6B, and C-32A in a more efective and eicient fashion”.
The AoA will have to determine whether potential NEAT designs will be capable of towing the lengthy trailing wire very-low-frequency antenna required for communication with submerged submarines as part of the TACAMO mission. In October 2017, the Air Force awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins to develop the Airborne Launch Control System Replacement, which would provide the onboard mission system for the airborne command post function of an E-6B replacement. David C Isby