Recent photo taken by Michael Ganoe and posted on social media shows an E-6 Mercury photographed at Chambers, the airfield behind Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
Adam Dowdell on FB; "..when I was stationed there the E-6’s with VQ 4 were considered vital to national defense and deadly force was authorized. They carried crypto gear for communications with our nuclear arsenal on subs. I know the E6A’s were updated in the late 90’s to the E6B and absorbed the looking glass missions. Not sure of their roll now. That aircraft has no tail numbers so. We used to confiscate people’s cameras at Pax for taking pictures of the E-6’s that were on alert. If you got close enough to read the number on the tail you were more likely about to have a very bad day. But in the end there is just something special about a 707 airframe capable of supersonic and inverted flight.."
Stu Ben; "..They fly every single day. I have seen at most 5 up at one time. . They come out of various locations with Pax on the East coast. They have a reel with a wire they trail out of the back with a drogue chute to pull it out and then they are able to talk on VLF (Very low frequency) thru the water to the submarines. Another nick name is TACAMO ('Take charge and move out').."
The first E-6 to deploy to Europe arrived at RAF mildenhall in June 2022. Note the two oval-shaped antennae coverings located on the forward and rear fuselage, respectively. These are also a fairly recent addition and comprise downlink antennae to connect with ground stations. Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 4 (VQ-4)‘Shadows’, is stationed at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma, and on June 28, 2022 flew a seven-hour mission from Mildenhall, flying at 26,000ft above the eastern Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Ireland. The altitude permitted the vertical trailing wire to be almost fully extended to its maximum length of almost five miles.