Tinker and the Primes: SCW-1 scuttlebutt on the future of the E-6B

  • Published
  • By Mark Hybers
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The future of the Navy’s E-6B aircraft was one topic of discussion during the 15th annual Tinker and the Primes Conference, held Aug. 10-12, 2021 at the Reed Center in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

Tinker has hosted the Navy wing since 1992, however, this year was the first time the wing has been invited to speak at the annual event that brings together Department of Defense officials and industry partners. 

Strategic Communications Wing ONE Commodore CAPT. Cedrick Jessup spoke to an interested group about a familiar subject – an aging airframe.  The TACAMO mission has been performed on the Boeing E-6B Mercury since 1997. 

According to Jessup, in fiscal year 2022 the Navy will accelerate recapitalization of this Bio-NC3 mission from the aging fleet of 16 into the C-130 J30 Super Stretched Hercules aircraft.

“The rugged C-130J is able to operate for many more airfields than the current E-6B Mercury aircraft,” he said. “The characteristics of this airframe also maximize the operational deployability of the assets into astute environments in which are ideal for the TACAMO mission set.”

According to Jessup, the Navy’s first TACAMO mission set was flown on the C-130; however, this newer version is a modified version of the older airframe, but maintains the same versatility, ideal for the STRATCOMWING ONE’s mission.

“The C-130J is the current, much more modern version of the C-130 and is flown by the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, as well as many other foreign forces,” stated Jessup.  “The C-130J is also similar but has a 15-foot longer fuselage.”

This new aircraft will also modify the wing’s current mission.  The E-6B serves as an airborne command post.  That mission will not fit on the C-130J.  However, Jessup noted that performing the TACAMO mission only is a benefit for the smaller aircraft and enables the wing to operate on a more adaptable platform. 

Currently there are three new aircraft planned for production in FY22 and ’23 and are sole sourced to Lockheed Martin.  The first is tentatively is expected to arrive for testing in FY26 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.  It will go through extensive testing and research that will completed before any operation.

The big unanswered question for attendees at this forum – who is the prime for the mission suite? 

“That has yet to be decided,” Jessup said as he wrapped up his time on the podium.