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This 'Doomsday' Plane Was Designed to Survive a Nuclear Attack. A Bird Just Took It Down.

A close-up view of the wingtip ESM sensors, or electronic support measures, on a U.S. Navy E-6A Mercury aircraft. To create the E-6B, Boeing modified the E-6A, adding various specialized equipment.
A close-up view of the wingtip ESM sensors, or electronic support measures, on a U.S. Navy E-6A Mercury aircraft. To create the E-6B, Boeing modified the E-6A, adding various specialized equipment.
(Image: © Timm Ziegenthaler/Stocktrek Images via Getty)

A U.S. Navy "doomsday" aircraft, meant to survive a nuclear attack, recently met its match: a bird.

The bird strike took out one of the plane's four engines, and the U.S. Navy declared it a "Class A mishap," meaning the event caused more than $2 million in damages, death or permanent disability, the Navy Times reported

On Oct. 2, during a so-called touch-and-go maneuver — when an aircraft lands and then takes off again without coming to a full stop — the E-6B Mercury aircraft struck an as-yet unidentified bird, Tim Boulay, a spokesman for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, told Military.com. The bird strike happened at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

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No injuries were reported, and the plane landed safely on the runway at the air station at 3:12 p.m. ET, Military.com reported. 

And now, the plane is back in action. "The engine has been replaced, and the aircraft has been returned to service," Boulay said, according to Military.com.

The bird strike marks the second Class-A mishap of this type of doomsday aircraft already this year. In February, an E-6B Mercury snagged a hangar while being moved at the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Military.com reported.

The E-6B Mercury is a Boeing 707 that's souped-up military style to serve as an airborne command and communications platform for the U.S. Navy in the event of a nuclear war. Its systems are crafted to survive electromagnetic pulses from nuclear bombs detonating below it, according to a report by The Center for the National Interest, a public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C. 

The craft uses low-frequency communication systems that would allow those in charge to communicate with the U.S. Navy's nuclear missile force on ballistic missile submarines at sea, according to Military.com.

This doomsday plane is also equipped with the so-called airborne launch control system, meaning it can launch land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, Military.com reported. 

Bird strikes by aircraft are not uncommon. According to the government program Department of Defense Partners in Flight (DoD PIF), every year, about 3,000 wildlife-strike incidents are reported for military aircraft and another 2,300-plus for civil craft.

Various prevention programs, including the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard program, have been put into place in an effort to reduce these bird-strike incidents. 

"Habitat modifications and scaring birds away from the runways is an integral part of the answer, but understanding the behavior and movements of birds in relation to the airfield environment and military training routes by pilots and aircrews is also a critical factor in reducing bird strikes," the DoD PIF said.

Originally published on Live Science.