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And then there’s a whole other fleet that the Air Force tries to keep out of sight. Ever since the 1960s, the United States has been building and equipping a special set of planes whose sole purpose has been to evacuate the president in the event of a nuclear war and allow him to command a war from wherever he may be.
The airplanes, while not technically secret, are rarely mentioned—the Air Force does not even publicly acknowledge owning some of them—even though they’re always at the president’s beck and call. Through interviews, declassified records and a careful review of Air Force manuals and other historical documents, though, it’s possible to piece together a window into this secret fleet. As it turns out, the biggest secret surrounding the fleet isn’t the planes themselves—it’s where the planes are supposed to land after scooping up the president, an answer that lies in a key friendship of First Lady Jackie Kennedy.