FACT CHECK: Did ‘Doomsday Planes’ Go Airborne Because Of Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis?

Bradley Devlin | Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims the U.S. government scrambled “doomsday planes” because of President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Verdict: False

While two planes with capabilities to control the U.S. nuclear arsenal and other missiles were in the air around the time the news broke that Trump had tested positive for coronavirus, U.S. Strategic Command Spokesperson Karen Singer said in a statement that the flights were “pre-planned missions” and their timing to the announcement was “purely coincidental.”

Fact Check:

The Facebook post reads, “For those suspecting Trump’s announcement is a hoax, here’s skywatcher Tim Hogan of Honolulu posting about U.S. ‘doomsday planes’ launching off the East and West Coasts half an hour before news broke. National security is no joke, and a White House in turmoil puts us all at risk.”

Attached to the post are several screen-grabbed tweets from a man named Tim Hogan. In one, the Twitter user said that planes were allegedly a “message to the small group of adversaries with SLBMs and ICBMs” in response to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

While it is true that two Boeing E6-B planes – sometimes called “doomsday planes” because of their capability to control the U.S. nuclear weapons systems – were in the air around the time Trump announced he had COVID-19, it was not in response to any national security concerns or threats. Singer confirmed to Jim Sciutto of CNN that “these flights were pre-planned missions. Any timing to the President’s announcement is purely coincidental.”

In an Oct. 2 statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said, “There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces. Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by this announcement.”

Some journalists specializing in aviation and national security were also quick to point out there was nothing irregular about the movements of the E6-B jets. (RELATED: ‘I Will Never Forget It’ – Watch Trump’s First Message Since Announcing His Positive Coronavirus Test)

Editor of The War Zone Tyler Rogoway tweeted, “E-6B TACAMOs showing up on ADS-B tracking sites means nothing. They are up all the time. Could their posture have changed a bit, possibly, but there is no real evidence of that.”

“It is very routine to have E-6s up,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tweeted. “Do not read anything into this, it isn’t a message to anyone. In terms of nuclear command and control, the concern isn’t communication but chain of command in case of POTUS incapacitation, but we are nowhere near there yet.”

Other Facebook posts have made similar claims and included screenshots of the theory, which quickly circulated on Twitter. Forbes reported that the Navy has 16 E-6B planes and that one is often in the air.

Bradley Devlin

Reporter
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