The flight of a Russian army aircraft, an IL-80, over Moscow in recent days has attracted the attention of observers and the spotlight of international newsrooms (like the Satan 2 missile that preceded it). Recognizable by the protrusion that adorns the fuselage, this device, in the event of a nuclear war, is intended to accommodate Vladimir Putin, allowing the Russian president to order virtual strikes from the sky. The plane is scheduled to be part of the military parade on May 9, an attendance that some media have interpreted as a show of force or a threat from Moscow. Some nicknames have gone so far as to show her thrilling qualities, greatly exaggerating her supposed abilities.
The Il-80, or Ilyushin IL-80, is a modified version of a Russian civilian aircraft to be the command and control aircraft of the Russian Army. Its purpose is to be a central position in which the Russian General Staff, including the head of the army and President Vladimir Putin, can deliver nuclear strikes in the event of an all-out war.
Does it look new?
Several French media have confirmed that this IL-80 flight is the first since its last review in 2010. For example, LCI claimed that it “It’s a big surprise. Because this plane is one of the biggest mysteries of Russian aviation. Some even thought it didn’t exist anymore. In fact, we haven’t seen it in twelve years.” Totally incorrect statements. The presence of the IL-80 in the convoy of May 9 was known since the end of April, when the Russian authorities presented the list of aircraft.
And if the IL-80 was last paraded over Red Square twelve years ago, then observers will never mention its disappearance. This aircraft remains relatively secretive, but has been noticed on several occasions. One of the Telegram channels close to the media sphere of the Kremlin had already shared photos of a repeat flight on April 18, 2022, the latter of which has been observed sometimes since 2010, as in these photos of the take-off, which were clearly filmed in 2016. Many photos, Some of them are taken by satellite Like these in 2019Airplanes are also shown.
How many are there?
This device, which was presented by the media as a “doomsday aircraft”, refers not to a single aircraft, but to a small fleet. There are already four copies of the IL-80, the model in the media in recent days, at least one of which is no longer operational, notes the political scientist Benjamin Graves, a specialist in the arsenal of the Russian army. , on his Red Samovar blog. This last device could have been partially disassembled to keep the other models in good condition.
Doubts also exist about the RA-86149: the latter made international headlines in 2020 after a surprising story about the burglary. Russian officials then realized that individuals had entered the parked IL-80 in the Rostov region, and stole dozens of electronic equipment.
These IL-80s are not the only airborne command and control positions of the Russian army. These aircraft are still the most imposing, but dozens of aircraft such as the Tupolev Tu-214PU and some variants of the Ilyushin IL-96 also fulfill this task and are also called the “doomsday aircraft”. In the end, the new devices should replace the IL-80: IL-96-400M.
Are the Russians the only ones who own these planes?
Two countries have this type of aircraft: Russia and the United States. The American equivalent is the Boeing E-4B, nicknamed “Nighwatch”, which is a derivative of Boeing. The two nuclear giants keep these expensive devices (several hundreds of millions) to ensure that their deterrence is effective. Note that the nickname “plane of the apocalypse”, which was held in the media by the IL-80, does not have anything specific to the Russian machine, since it originally referred to the American one. Plusieurs semaines avant qu’on ne parle de l’appareil russe, la presse américaine s’est récemment fait l’écho de la présence d’un des E-4B de Washington dans la flotte de Joe Biden lors de sa venue en Europe fin Mars.
Can it withstand a nuclear explosion?
This controversy was waved by many media outlets. For LCI, it’s “Nuclear plane to combat the end of the worldThat would be Ultra-resistant, even to a nuclear explosion. “Bird’s Refuge” for BFM TV. In response to a question from CheckNews, Benjamin Gravisse explained:The aircraft, like the US E-4Bs, is designed to have as little and/or shielded electronics as possible on board compared to a “nuclear” environment. In fact, electrical equipment performs very poorly (if any) after receiving one or more electromagnetic pulses (EMP weapons in the terminology): the latter causes on-board circuits to burn out.“Which would risk the failure of the aircraft, the impossibility of maintaining nuclear deterrence, that is, the possibility of communicating with units capable of responding. This does not mean that the device is invincible and can “resist a nuclear strike.” Benjamin Graves defines: “There is no structural armor, and the base is a civilian aircraft, so it is not designed to carry tons of extra steel. Especially since the NK-86 reactors of the IL-80 are far from lightning in terms of thrust …”