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The Russia Aerospace Forces are about to get two brand-new airborne command post Il-96-400M planes.
This type of aircraft is more famous by its nickname the “Doomsday plane”. The work on the first prototype of the Il-96-400M has been ongoing for several years.
It is a 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 at the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association’s aviation assembly plant, which produces transport planes for civilian and military use.
Russian state media reported 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The new Doomsday plane is to replace the more outdated Il-80 plane, based on the Il-86 civilian version.
The plane is widely known for its troubled development cycle. As mentioned above, it is based on the Il-96, which initially flew in 1988, the jet was supposed to become the Russian wide-body airliner of a new generation.
It was intended to be both the stop-gap measure before the Chinese-Russian CR929 entered service, and a competitor to the Boeing 777X and the Airbus A350 long-range airliners.
In April 2021, it was announced that the idea to mass-produce the airliner was canceled and only two prototypes were going to be built.
The decision to turn Il-96-400Ms into airborne command posts signifies the second critical change in the turbulent history of this aircraft. It also brings a significant upgrade to the aging fleet of Russia’s doomsday planes.
The previous incarnation – the Il-80 is, at this point, not even taken seriously as in December 2020, parts of the radio equipment from one the Il-80 Doomsday planes were stolen during maintenance in the city of Taganrog.
The Il-96-400Ms are likely to be a sort of placeholder, while Russia reportedly works to develop the “Zveno 3S” doomsday plane. It is expected to have a reinforced fuselage, special communication systems and no cabin windows to guard against radiation fallout, according to Russian media.
The Doomsday plane is an unofficial denomination of a class of aircraft which is used as an Airborne Command Post in an event of nuclear war, disaster or other large scale conflict that threatens key military and government infrastructure. G_3(A)
The only countries that have designed and manufactured such aircraft are the United States and Russia.