Il-96-400M jet will be the new Russian ‘doomsday’ plane

Updated version of the Ilyushin passenger aircraft is on the final stretch of assembly and will replace the Il-80 as an airborne command of the Russian Air Force
The ilyushin Il-80, current "doomsday" aircraft (Dmitry Terekhov)

Russia will use the Il-96-400M, a modernized version of the four-engine passenger jet, as its new ‘doomsday’ plane, nickname given to the airborne strategic command aircraft, used in situations of serious conflict such as a potential nuclear war.

Currently the country’s Air Force uses four units of the Il-80, also adapted from a commercial jet, the Il-86, but which has a short range.

The information was revealed to TASS by an industry source. “It is scheduled to replace it with an Il-96-400M. It will allow to significantly increase the period of airborne combat duty and to extend the radius for troop command.”

Airborne command planes were created to maintain the operational capacity of the armed forces in the event of infrastructure destruction on the ground. The US Air Force, for example, operates four E-4B, Boeing 747 adapted for this mission.

These planes are designed to fly non-stop for up to a week with aerial refueling and can accommodate up to 112 crew members, between flight crew and operations. In addition to communication equipment, the E-4B has radiation and nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) protection.

Ilyushin Il-96-400M rendering (UAC)

No windows

The Il-80, unlike the E-4B, has no windows. It can be refueled in flight by the probe system and has two huge electric generators mounted under the wings. In addition to officers, the jet can also carry Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The four-engine aircraft is also protected against possible radioactive interference and has been in operation since the late 1980s. Both the E-4B and the Il-80 have protrusions at the top of the fuselage, which accommodates satellite communication equipment, among others.

Boeing E-4B (Balon Greyjoy)

First flight in 2021

The Il-96-400M is a derivative of the original Il-96 with a longer fuselage and some technical improvements. Its turbofan engine, however, is the same PS-90A, with high fuel consumption. Still, the aircraft is far more efficient than the old Il-86.

UAC, which controls Ilyushin, recently said that the first flight of the Il-96-400M will take place in 2021. There is no known forecast as to when the new Russian “doomsday” plane will be delivered.

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