A Navy “doomsday” aircraft designed to be used as a command center in a nuclear war was knocked out of commission – by a bird, which caused over $2 million in damages when it was sucked into an engine during a test flight.
The E-6B Mercury plane was grounded after an unidentified species of bird was sucked into one of its four engines during a test flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland earlier this month. The plane was conducting a touch-and-go landing when the “Class A” accident occurred, causing over $2 million in damages and requiring the replacement of the entire engine. The bird was the only casualty.
The “doomsday” aircraft is designed to serve as a command and control post in the event of a nuclear war, connecting the US’ “nuclear triad” of submarines, Air Force bombers, and ICBMs with the president and the Pentagon chief. The stricken craft has been repaired and returned to service. It is the second E-6B Mercury to meet with expensive misfortune this year; another of the $141 million aircraft was damaged while being towed out of a hangar at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma in February.
An investigation into the bird strike is ongoing. Alas, naval investigators missed out on the chance to question the winged saboteur.