A E-6B Mercury airborne communications aircraft was forced to land after a bird was sucked into an engine, destroying it. The E-6B is designed to act as an important communications relay during a nuclear war, ensuring that the President of the United States can send orders to the nuclear triad, including launch orders.
The incident took place earlier this month at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Virginia. According to Navy Times, the aircraft was performing touch and go landings when one of its four engines ingested a bird, destroying it. The E-6B was able to make an emergency landing at the air station. None of the crew were harmed in the incident.
The incident was classified as a “Class A” incident, which the U.S. Navy defines as one resulting in $2 million or more in damages or a destroyed aircraft. It is also defined as an incident that involves a “fatality or permanent total disability.” In this case the accident is classified “Class A” due to the cost of the repair and the cost of a replacement engine.
The E-6B Mercury is designated an Airborne Launch Control System aircraft, supporting U.S. nuclear forces across the globe. Based on the Boeing 707 civilian airliner, the E-6B is designed to serve as a backup communications relay between the National Command Authority (the President of the United States or his successors) and the Air Force bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and strategic nuclear missile submarines of the U.S. Navy.