‘Flying Kremlin’: Russia’s Powerful Aircraft Designed For A Potential ‘Nuclear War’ Spotted Over Moscow

Vladimir Putin’s special “Doomsday” command and control aircraft – the Ilyushin Il-80 – has been spotted flying about Moscow in recent days amid growing concerns in the West that Russia could launch a nuclear attack.

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Footage of the skies over Moscow shows the Ilyushin Il-80 passing low over the city’s outskirts. However, Russian officials have stated that the plane would perform a low flypast during Monday’s annual Victory Day parade in Red Square and that it is now undergoing “rehearsals” for the performance. 

The giant Soviet-era aircraft is known as the “Flying Kremlin” – Snap from video

The huge Soviet-era aircraft, known as the “Flying Kremlin,” hasn’t been seen at a Victory Day commemoration since 2010, and some say its comeback is an indication Putin intends to send a warning message to the West.  

Two MiG-29s will accompany the Il-80 Maxdome as it flies low over St Basil’s Cathedral. Strategic missile carriers Tu-95MS and Tu-160 ‘White Swan’ will also take part in the flypast, emphasizing Russia’s nuclear readiness.

There will also be a fifth-generation Su-57 fighter and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers on display.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said that eight MiG-29SMT fighter jets will fly in the shape of the letter ‘Z’ in support of Russian forces taking part in a special military operation in Ukraine. 

The latest video of Russia’s doomsday plane comes after numerous threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin that he “won’t brag about nuclear weapons, but will use them” if necessary.

Last week, Kremlin state television warned that a Third World War is ‘probable,’ adding that ‘we all die someday.’

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The lumbering Il-80 Maxdome is intended to serve as a Kremlin-in-the-sky in the case of a nuclear assault, and it can also be refueled in mid-air. Putin would be able to issue nuclear strike orders to his forces from an airborne command post. 

Russian Ilyushin II-80 plane seen flying over Moscow’s Red Square in 2010 – Twitter

The planes are scheduled to be replaced by more advanced Ilyushin 96-400Ms, which will provide the Russian leader with increased ease as he oversees troops and missiles during a nuclear disaster. 

It was reported last year that Russia is developing two new so-called Doomsday planes to carry the country’s senior military and political leaders in the event of a nuclear assault.

According to reports, the first of the new airborne command and control planes is now being built but is not expected to be ready for use anytime soon.

The Il-96-400M is an upgraded version of the long-range, wide-body civilian airliner Il-96. An Il-96 variant currently serves as President Vladimir Putin’s preferred mode of air travel, analogous to Air Force One in the United States.

In 2020, one of the four existing planes was infiltrated and robbed while undergoing maintenance in the Russian city of Taganrog on the Sea of Azov. After a cargo hatch was breached, 39 pieces of radio equipment were stolen.

The equipment held precious metals such as gold and platinum, which is thought to be a possible motivation for the crime. A local cab driver Zhora Khachunts, 36, was arrested in connection with the embarrassing incident but said he was framed.

File Image: Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu

Ilyushin Il-80

The Ilyushin II-80 reportedly flew for the first time in 1985, with deliveries beginning in 1987 following extensive modifications. Western media only became aware of these flights in 1992, when the planes were supposed to have been put into service.

The II-80s, which were developed using Ilyushin’s II-86 aircraft as a model, are noticeably different from commercial aircraft. The aircraft’s calling name is Maxdome, while others refer to it as Camber, a nickname used by commercial navigation for II-86s.

Ilyushin Il-80

Maxdome differs from its commercial counterpart in that the aircraft’s cabin windows are not visible. The cockpit retains its windows, but they are blocked by a baffle.

These modifications were implemented to safeguard the passengers from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or nuclear explosion. The aircraft’s upper deck doors have been decreased in number, with only one airstair remaining.

In the front, a big SATCOM canoe with large antennae rests on top of the fuselage. The aircraft’s tail additionally holds a winch for a towed very-low-frequency (VLF) antenna, and horizontal stabilizers can accommodate additional sensors or communication antennas.

The plane also has two enormous electrical generator pods placed inwards of its engines, which have air intake scoops and jet exhausts at their ends. Below the cockpit is a retractable refueling probe.