Northrop Grumman to build advanced SATCOM datalink gear for E-6B Mercury strategic airborne command post

Jan. 7, 2020
The Boeing E-6 Mercury airborne command post and communications relay aircraft is based on the stretched Boeing 707-320 narrow-body passenger jet.

PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md. – Satellite communications SATCOM) experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. will build and test advanced SATCOM capability for the U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury strategic airborne command post and communications relay aircraft under terms of an $9.3 million order announced last week.

Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., are asking the Northrop Grumman Mission Systems segment in Herndon, Va., to build five Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL) A-kits for the E-6B Mercury aircraft.

The order includes and A and B-kit spares for the MR-TCDL modification upgrade to the E-6B Mercury.

Related: Raytheon to build command-and-control SATCOM system to link nuclear forces to national command authorities

The Boeing E-6 Mercury is an airborne command post and communications relay aircraft based on the 1950s-vintage stretched Boeing 707-320 narrow-body passenger jetliner. compared to the original 707 jetliner, the E-6 Mercury has new engines and other system upgrades.

The plane conveys instructions from the National Command Authority to deployed Navy nuclear ballistic missile submarines, as well as to land-based atomic missiles and nuclear-armed bombers.

The E-6 Mercury's MR-TCDL provides secure Ku line-of-sight and Ka-band SATCOM systems for the E-6B aircraft. The datalink includes two Ku line-of-sight channels and one Ka-band satellite communications channel. Other equipment includes power conditioning, cooling, electrical, and network distribution. The system also has equipment that interfaces Block II B kits into the existing E-6B avionics architecture.

Related: Air Force eyes next-generation tactical data links gateway for jet fighter communications

The E-6B provides command and control of U.S. nuclear forces should ground-based control become inoperable. The plane is based on the four-engine Boeing 707 passenger jetliner.

The plane has a battle staff area and new flight deck systems based on modern Boeing 737 avionics. The E-6 flew in 1987, and the first E-6B was accepted in December 1997. The last production E-6B was delivered to the Navy in late 2006.

On this contract modification Northrop Grumman will do the work in San Diego and Greenville, Texas, and should be finished by March 2022. For more information contact Northrop Grumman Mission Systems online at, or Naval Air Systems Command at

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