Defense: 35,000 Hours Through the Looking Glass

In its 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year alert against surprise attack, the U.S. depends on a foolproof communications system. To make sure that communications work even in the event of a massive missile attack that could destroy most of the vital command centers of U.S. defense, the Strategic Air Command maintains an emergency headquarters command and communications staff headed by a general in a jet airplane five miles in the sky. That system was initiated four years ago last week and—figuratively speaking—the plane has been circling aloft for more than 35,000 hours.

There are, in fact, several such planes —adapted models of...

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