There has been no alteration in the United States’ military defense posture since President Donald Trump announced early Friday that he and first lady Melania had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Pentagon said.
“There’s been no change to DoD alert levels,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement published on the Defense Department’s website. “The U.S. military stands ready to defend our country and interests. 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.”
Hoffman also dismissed reports of two E-6B Mercury planes – known as airborne command posts and/or doomsday planes – detected on both coasts of the country as happenstance.
“With regard to reports about E-6B aircraft on alert status, US STRATCOM (U.S. Strategic Command) has confirmed these E-6B aircraft were part of pre-planned missions,” Hoffman’s statement said. “Any timing to the president’s announcement was purely coincidental.”
Codenamed “Operation Looking Glass,” the E-6Bs are modified Boeing 707s with the ability to command and control the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile fleet in case ground operations are incapacitated.
The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley last met with Trump on Sunday at the White House Gold Star Families event.
Esper tested negative for the coronavirus on Monday and Wednesday prior to his trip to North Africa, where he was visiting Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, according to the Military Times.
He was to be tested again as planned for continuation of his travel.
“He will not be returning to the U.S. early,” the Pentagon said. “The chairman was tested this morning and was negative.”
Several other top Pentagon leaders were at Sunday’s event and have subsequently tested negative, CNBC reported: Army chief of staff Gen. James McConville; Air Force chief of staff Gen. Charles Brown; Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; chief of space operations Space Force Gen. John Raymond; and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger.
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