On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced that it has awarded a small but important bit of contract work to Raytheon (NYSE:RTN). The defense contractor won a $9.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to upgrade audio equipment on three of the Air Force's four E-4B aircraft. The E-4B, dubbed "Nightwatch" in Pentagon parlance, refers to modified Boeing (NYSE:BA) 747-200 aircraft that are to serve as the nation's Advanced Airborne Command Posts in the event of a nuclear attack. (Which probably explains why Raytheon will only be working on three of the four planes at once.) Work on these three is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1, 2015.

Interestingly, some sources suggest that the E-4B is scheduled to be retired in 2015. Awarding a contract to upgrade the planes' audio systems -- and, in particular, the completion date set at the end of 2015 -- tends to argue that Boeing's planes will be flying quite a bit longer than that.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Raytheon. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.