The transformation of the US Navy Boeing E-6 Mercury

Its name may have changed early in its career, but the Boeing E-6 has since undergone further, more significant transformations. Bob Archer reports

On the evening of May 1, 2011, E-6B 164409 departed RAF Mildenhall and flew an orbit over the UK for several hours. There is speculation that the aircraft was the relay for a pair of Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirits that had overflown the Mediterranean and continued towards Pakistan. At 0100hrs on May 2, a US Navy SEAL team was flown covertly by helicopters into a compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan, where terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was living. The team killed bin Laden and neutralized the area.

The presence of the B-2s was as a backup in case the SEAL team plan failed. With operation Neptune Spear a success, the B-2s were not required, and after an eight-hour sortie the E-6B landed back at Mildenhall, before returning to the United States two days later.

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