The Flying Kremlin: How Russia’s Doomsday Plane Is Preparing for Nuclear War

If a nuclear strike wipes out the Kremlin, the Russian president will launch a counterattack from this doomsday plane.
doomsday plane

After bragging about its new Sarmat ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), Russia is showing its doomsday plane to prepare for a possible nuclear war against NATO.

In fact, the Russian media portrays the war in Ukraine as a fight to protect Russia’s interests from Western sanctions and NATO expansion.

For this reason, the Ilyushin Il-80 doomsday plane is set to fly at the Russian “Victory Day” parade. Its name has come up in recent weeks after so many threats from Vladimir Putin about a nuclear attack.


So, what exactly can this doomsday plane do? Is it comparable to the American E-6B Mercury?

Ilyushin Il-80 aka “the Flying Kremlin”

Ilyushin Il-80
Ilyushin Il-80 by Dmitry Terekhov. Licensed under CC by 2.0

Also known as the Flying Kremlin, the Ilyushin II-80 doomsday plane is set to serve as the Russian president’s flying headquarters in case of an American nuclear attack.

It is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) resistant aircraft so that the Russian President can command the whole Russian armed forces along with his top military leaders in case of an all-out nuclear war.


The USSR began the project of developing its own ‘Doomsday’ aircraft in the 1980s to host the supreme command of the Russian Armed Forces, along with a team comprising an operational management group and technical maintenance specialists – and it is still in operation with all the upgrades that have been made to it over the years.


Ilyushin  Ильюшин Ил-86ВКП
Ильюшин Ил-86ВКП by Alexander Shukhov. Licensed under CC by 2.0

It is supposed to be a very high-tech plane, but the precise details are Russian state secrets. In any case, since the Ilyushin II-80 is modeled on the Ilyushin Il-86. So, its features should be very similar:

  • Manufacturer: Ilyushin
  • First flight: 1987
  • Introduction: 1992
  • Status: In service
  • Number built: 4
  • Length: 60.22 meters (197 feet 7 inches)
  • Height: 15.67 meters (51 feet 5 inches)
  • Payload capacity: 40–42 tons
  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.782 – Mach 0.82 
  • Range: 5,000 kilometers (3107 miles) 
  • Landing: 1,200 meters (3,940 feet)

It has no windows, apart from the cockpit to safeguard passengers from the thermal flash of a nuclear explosion, and it has specialized shielding to preserve the functionality of the aircraft’s radio systems.


It’s comparable to the American E-6B Mercury doomsday plane

Boeing E-6B Mercury
Boeing E-6B Mercury by Alan Wilson Blue. Licensed under CC by 2.0

TACAMO stands for “Take Charge And Move Out” in the US military. It is an ongoing American military mission to ensure nuclear response in the scenario of a Chinese or Russian nuclear attack that would wipe out their strategic land-based centers.

Well… Russia also thought of this possibility. The Ilushyn is linked to the Russian nuclear submarines with ICBMs to seize control and launch a massive counter-attack in case of an American nuclear attack.

Apparently, since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, this aircraft will be flying to make it clear to the United States that Russia is willing to do anything in the war.


However, in a few years, this aircraft will be replaced by Ilyushin 96-400Ms – although, like all Russian military equipment, it is not expected to be operational any time soon.

The E-6B Mercury and Ilyushin II-80 are similar

Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-87 Aimak
Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-87 Aimak by Alex Beltyukov. Licensed under CC by 2.0

Both aircraft are comparable and were introduced into their armed forces at similar times. 

The Ilyushin entered service in 1992, while the E-6B Mercury entered service in 1989. Also, they have similar capabilities and sizes. However, there are far fewer Ilyushins (4), while there are 16 E-6B Mercury planes.


In addition, E-6B Mercury will be replaced relatively soon by the EC-130J TACAMO while the Ilyushin replacement is still in the planning stage.

Russia won’t stop making nuclear threats to the United States and its allies

Russia has deployed its doomsday aircraft and is ready for the new challenges of today’s global conflicts – including a potential nuclear war.

As a result, Russia has rolled out the Ilyushin and new ICBMs as propaganda tools. Russia will undoubtedly be demonstrating its power for as long as the conflict in Ukraine lasts in hopes of deterring western interference.


Feature image credit: Ilyushin Il-80 at Ramenskoye Airport by Artem Katranzhi. Licensed under CC by 2.0

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