According to Russian state media, work began on the military aircraft last year. The new plane model, named for its ability to withstand a nuclear blast, would work as a potential aerial command and control post for top officials in a disaster like nuclear-armed conflict.
Reports of the flight being one of President Putin’s “doomsday” fleet has raised particular concerns that a nuclear war could be on the horizon amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Data from FlightRadar24 shows a plane with the code “RSD980” described as “Rossiya – Special Flight Squadron” circulating over Moscow.
The data shows that the aircraft took off from Moscow Vnukovo International Airport at 4.16pm, and the flight path shows the plane making numerous circulations in the airspace above Moscow.
The plane circulated for 3 hours and 41 minutes, before landing at the same airport according to the site’s data.
The plane’s aircraft type is listed as “Tu-214VPU”.
Another version of Tu-214 performed its maiden flight at the airfield of Kazan Aviation Production Association in 2013.
At that time, the acronym generated a number of guesses related to the aircraft’s role.
RuAviation.com, a site specialising in Russian aviation, reported at the time: “According to a source close to the aircraft industry, this acronym stands for airborne command post.”
The site also claims the first information related to a Tu-214 jet intended for special aircraft division of the Federal Security Service (FSB) surfaced over a decade ago, in August 2011.
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According to state-run news agency RIA Novosti, which cited a source in the state military-industrial complex, the work on the third-generation “doomsday plane” was underway in Voronezh in July last year.
Tass, another Russian state-run outlet, also said the new planes are based on the Il-96-400M, a Soviet-designed airliner, and will replace Russia’s current fleet of Il-80s.
Unlike the model on which they are based, “doomsday planes” are windowless which intends to shield those onboard from a nuclear blast.
“Doomsday planes” can operate as airborne command and control centres that can be used to evacuate top officials in an emergency.
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The aircrafts are equipped with the technology to direct the armed forces in the event of a disaster like a nuclear war.
Information on the new plane and its specifications are limited, but RIA Novosti reports that the new types will have a longer range than their predecessors and be able to communicate effectively with strategic nuclear forces within roughly 3,700 miles.
The only countries that have designed and manufactured such aircraft are the United States and Russia.
The US military’s “doomsday plane” is the E-4B, a militarized variant of the Boeing 747-200 passenger jet.
According to The Air Force, the plane is protected against electromagnetic pulses and shielded against nuclear and thermal effects.
The satellite technology utilised onboard also offers worldwide communication capabilities.
At least one E-4B is on alert at any given time, according to the service.