Russia starts work on two new ‘Doomsday planes’ for use in nuclear war

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Russia is the only other country apart from the United States to have a Doomsday plane - Valentina Pevtsova/Tass via Getty Images
Russia is the only other country apart from the United States to have a Doomsday plane - Valentina Pevtsova/Tass via Getty Images

Russia is on track to build two new “Doomsday planes” designed to serve as a war room for the Kremlin in case of a nuclear attack.

The new plane model, named for its ability to withstand a nuclear blast, would work as a potential aerial command post for top officials. 

The planes will be fitted with technology to manage Russia’s nuclear arsenal, including submarines, strategic bombers and missile launchers based as far as 6,000 kilometres away.

State-owned news agency RIA Novosti said on Monday that one plane was being built and another was also expected to be commissioned.

The plane was modified from an Il-96-400M, a Soviet-designed airliner, and would be deployed “to evacuate the country’s senior leadership and coordinate the troops in case of the destruction of ground and satellite infrastructure,” RIA Novosti said.

It is expected to have a longer range than its predecessor, although the exact details were not reported.

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A military source of the Izvestia daily, however, said that the plane was still in the design stage and that it was too early to speak about the production.

Russia’s previous Doomsday plane was the subject of media attention last year when police reported several electronic units from the top-secret Il-80 plane were stolen during maintenance work in Taganrog.

Military experts speculated that the jet fell victim of common thieves who were after precious metals such as gold and platinum used in the equipment.

The incident raised concern about the security of the top-secret jet.

Russia’s new Doomsday plane is just one of the plethora of new military projects that have received lavish financing in recent years as the Kremlin embarks on an ambitious re-armament programme for the Russian military, which has long been underfinanced.

Monday's announcement appears to be a retort to the US Air Force for parading its own Doomsday plane. Just a few hours earlier, the Pentagon spokesman tweeted a video showing the E4-B Nightwatch being refueled mid-flight.

Top Russian and US officials will meet in Geneva for nuclear arms talks on Wednesday, which is the first tangible outcome of last month’s summit between Joe Biden, the US president, and Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have reached their lowest level since the end of the Cold War, but the two leaders agreed at their first meeting since Mr Biden’s election to restart talks aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear war.

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