Two 'Doomsday planes' took off shortly before Trump announced COVID-19 diagnosis
But Pentagon says "timing is coincidental."
Shortly before news broke that President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, the U.S. Navy's doomsday planes launched on both American coasts.
The planes, both E-6B Mercuries, are among the fleet of 16 the Pentagon has and operate as nuclear command posts. The four-engine planes are modified versions of the Boeing 707 airliner and carry special communication systems and crews that can command the Navy's Ohio-class nuclear ballistic-missile submarines.
One plane is often airborne at any given time, and while it's not unheard of for two to be in the air at the same time, the timing of Friday's twin sorties raised eyebrow.
But the flights had nothing to do with Trump's diagnosis.
"I can confirm these flights were pre-planned missions," Karen Singer, a U.S. Strategic Command spokesperson, told CNN.
A STRATCOM spokesman told The Washington Times: "The timing is coincidental."
Forbes reported: "In an atomic war, the E-6s would relay orders to the Ohio boomers, helping the boats' crews to target enemy cities and military bases with nuclear-tipped Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs."
It could be no accident that E-6s were airborne over both coasts in the minutes before Trump's announcement that he was infected, tweeted Tim Hogan, an American open-source intelligence practitioner. "I would expect them to pop up if he tests positive."
Hogan, who tracks such flights, tweeted just after midnight that the aircraft could be seen off both coasts. "There's an E-6B Mercury off the east coast near DC. I looked because I would expect them to pop up if he tests positive. It's a message to the small group of adversaries with SLBMs and ICBMs."
Hogan was referring to "submarine-launched ballistic missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles."
Later, he tweeted: "Here's another E6-B that just popped up visible on MLAT on the west coast. [In my opinion] Stratcom wants them to be seen."
But Forbes wrote that the two E-6s, which took off from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, were sorties that "clearly were for training purposes."
Still, the magazine said military officials likely wanted the planes to be seen. "Hogan tracked the E-6s on public software that registers airplanes' radio transponders. Military planes often switch off their transponders in order to avoid being tracked. If a military jet's transponders are on, it's because their crews want to be seen."
In the end, there was "no change to our alert levels," a military spokesperson told Politico. "The U.S. military stands ready to defend our country and its citizens. There's no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces."