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​Shannon Low, a sheetmetal mechanic with the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works in the fuel cell of an E-6 Mercury wing, in a photo released Nov. 19, 2015. Air Force photo by Kelly White.

​Technicians at Tinker AFB, Okla., recently reconditioned the 12th E-6 Mercury nuclear command and control aircraft, returning it to the Navy in less than half the time it took to deliver the first. “That is very important to our Navy customer due to the limited aircraft they have available and the critical mission” supporting US Strategic Command, 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director Bob Helgeson said in a Nov. 19 release. Tinker cut the time required to complete service life extension from more than 270 days on the first aircraft in 2009, to 132 days, mostly through innovative planning and more efficient use of personnel, according to the release. The service-life extension program will enable the entire 16-aircraft fleet to fly an additional 20 years. Mercury is the Navy's equivalent of the E-4B nuclear command and control aircraft, and is capable of directing the launch of both Minuteman III ICBMs as well as submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Tinker plans to complete SLEP of the final four aircraft by 2017.