The U.S. Airborne Strategic Command, Control, and Communications Program Office have purchased a retired Royal Air Force E-3D for $15 million to be used as an E-6B Mercury pilot training aircraft.
The E-3D is an airborne early warning and control system, commonly known as AWACs or AEW&C, the UK is switching to E-7 Wedgetails. You can read more about this here.
The programme office say here that they had been looking to acquire a dedicated training aircraft for the fleet to take the strain off using the current mission-capable E-6 aircraft.
“Since the E-6’s inception over three decades ago, the Navy has looked for ways to train pilots and keep them up to date on the airframe. Those options have included leasing several different commercial aircraft as well as using the mission-capable aircraft.”
They say that the aircraft will help reduce an estimated 600 flight hours and 2,400 landings/cycles per year from the E-6 mission aircraft.
“The training flights expose mission aircraft to significant wear-and-tear and impact their readiness and availability,” said Capt. Adam Scott, PMA-271 program manager.
“This is a great chance to work with the United Kingdom and bring a much-needed aircraft to the fleet.”
Both the E-3 and E-6 are militarised versions of the Boeing 707.
What is the E-6B Mercury?
The U.S. describe it as a “communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft. Provides survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control, and communications between the National Command Authority and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces. Two squadrons, the “Ironmen” of VQ-3 and the “Shadows” of VQ-4 deploy more than 20 aircrews from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. to meet these requirements.”