Last October ADN reported that Russia appeared to be upgrading its small fleet of airborne nuclear command aircraft ‘Doomsday Plane’ fleet from their older IL-80 aircraft to the more modern II-96-400M model manufactured by Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
This new aircraft would provide the Russian Air Force an aircraft with a much greater range than the aging IL-86, as well as likely improved avionics, electronic systems, and communications.
At the time, sources at UAC stated, according to The National Interest, that “the first flight of the IL-96-400M should take place next year, but it is unclear when the new Russian ‘Doomsday Plane’ will actually enter service.”
However, we now have reports from Russian state media that, in fact, Russia is working on two new so-called Doomsday planes to carry the country’s senior military and political leadership in case of a nuclear attack.
Defense News reports:
The Russian Air Force and Space Forces will receive two airborne commanding posts based on the Il-96-400M plane, according to Russian government news agency RIA Novosti, citing a source in the country’s defense sector.
The Il-96-400M is the modernized version of the Il-96 long-haul, wide-body civilian jetliner. An Il-96 variant currently operates as President Vladimir Putin’s primary means of travel by air, similar to that of the United States’ Air Force One.
Both Russian planes will be remodeled in the city of Voronezh, a several-hours drive from Moscow at the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association’s aviation assembly plant, which produces transport planes for civilian and military use.
RIA Novosti reported the source said that a third such plane will be made in the future.
The new Doomsday plane is to replace the more outdated Il-80 plane, based on the Il-86 civilian version.
A similar American ‘Doomsday’ capability exists with the U.S. Air Force E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post – ‘Nightwatch,’ a highly militarized version of the Boeing 747-200, four-engine, high-altitude passenger jet, capable of in-flight refueling for nearly unlimited endurance.
In addition to the E-4B, the U.S. Navy also operates the E-6B Mercury, based on a 707 airliner. It also serves as an airborne command post, but its primary purpose is to maintain secure communications between the national command authority (NCA) – which includes the president and secretary of defense – and U.S. nuclear forces in case other communications links are destroyed. ADN