The construction of the new "Doomsday aircraft" has begun in Voronezh. The aircraft to command and control troops in the event of a nuclear war is being built on the basis of the new wide-body Ilyushin Il-96-400M, RIA Novosti reports with reference to a source in the Russian defence industry.
The Russian Aerospace Forces will receive two of such aircraft. In the future, it will be possible to order a third airborne operations center.
The project is known as Zveno-3". The electronic equipment of the aircraft will make it possible to deliver orders to ground and submarine-based launchers within the range of 6,000 kilometers.
Plans to upgrade Russian airborne operation centers were first announced in October 2020. It was then said that the new aircraft would significantly increase the time of combat duty when airborne and increase the command and control coverage.
The Russian Aerospace Forces currently have four airborne operation centres based on the Ilyushin Il-80 aircraft. Product 65C, NATO reporting name Maxdome, was developed in the late 1980s. In addition to its primary function to control all types of troops, the aircraft is designed to evacuate top military officials. The aircraft can be operated under the conditions of a nuclear war. Detailed information about this aircraft constitutes a state secret.
However, the secrecy did not prevent thieves from getting into one of those aircraft based in the city of Taganrog. In December 2020, unidentified perpetrators stole more than 30 radio stations installed on the Il-80 aircraft. The doomsday aircraft was in Taganrog for scheduled modernization works. After their completion, the main entrance, the cargo compartment hatch and three emergency exits were sealed, but this did not stop the thieves.
The US version of such aircraft is known as E-4B Nightwatch. The US Air Force has three such aircraft built on the basis of the passenger Boeing 747 jetliner. They are assigned to the air base in Nebraska. The US Air Force put them into service in 1974. One of the four E-4Bs is always fully ready to take off within a few minutes - it automatically becomes Air Force One aircraft of the US president during his trips abroad.