Based on the Boeing 747-200, the E-4B is the US Air Force’s flying command center. Nicknamed “Doomsday” planes, these aircraft are designed to serve as command and control facilities in emergency situations. With four of these aircraft in service, what was one doing flying to a base close to Area 51 over the weekend?
A secretive flight to a secretive base
On July 23rd, one of the US Air Force’s E-4Bs reportedly landed at Tonopah Test Range Airport (XSD). Eurasian Times notes that this is the airport that serves the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) located in southern Nevada’s Great Basin Desert. The secretive and perhaps even ‘legendary’ military installation, known as Area 51, is also located within the NTTR.
Live and Let’s Fly notes that the visit went unpublicized but, instead, was discovered by a correspondent for The Drive, with the arrival of 74-0787, the registration for the jet. The aircraft reportedly used the callsign TITAN25, which is reserved for when the Secretary of Defense is onboard (as opposed to the callsign AIR FORCE ONE, when the country’s president is onboard).
The specific reason for the Defense Secretary’s visit to the secretive facility remains unknown.
What is at Area 51?
Just like most military facilities, Area 51 is entirely off-limits to civilians. What sets it apart from other bases is its place in popular culture. As Vox explains, Area 51 has long been at the center of a conspiracy among alien fans and UFO hunters. Thus, there is an ongoing belief that there exists a heavily guarded underground lab where the government holds and studies captured alien aircraft — and possibly even aliens themselves.
While none of that can be proven, we do know that the facility was used to test spy planes over the decades. Vox also notes that the US military will train foreign fighters there from time to time.
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Moving on to Asia
Live and Let’s Fly notes that the E-4B took off after spending a few hours at the Tonopah Test Range Airport. The Defense Secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, later posted to Twitter when the plane made a technical stop in Alaska on its way to Asia.
July 25th saw the aircraft head to Singapore, according to data from RadarBox.com. A Department of Defense statement notes that the Defense Secretary swore in his new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, Dr. Ely Ratner, aboard the aircraft.
Wheels down in Alaska. pic.twitter.com/vjrpLW8LF3
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) July 24, 2021
On July 27th, Austin met with Singapore’s Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, discussing the regional security environment and agreeing on the importance of sustaining “a rules-based order.” The two officials also agreed to continue finding ways to expand the role of the U.S.-Singapore partnership in maintaining regional stability.
What do you think the US Defense Secretary was doing near Area 51? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.