The thieves targeted the Russian “Doomsday” plane, which is a military aircraft used by high-ranking officials, including Vladimir Putin, in the event of a nuclear war.

Official media reported that the theft of the Ilyushin 80, a mobile command post designed to keep officials alive and lead the military during a nuclear conflict, took place at an airport in southern Russia.

The thieves managed to open the plane’s top-secret charging hatch and steal 39 pieces of radio equipment. They were not arrested.

Officials at the Ministry of the Interior in the city of Taganrog confirmed that a plane at the Taganrog Aviation Scientific and Technical Complex had been stolen, although they had not identified any aircraft.

Russian TV station Rin TV reported that police had found shoes and fingerprints on the plane.

Il-86 airborne command post takes off.
Il-86 airborne command post takes off. Photo: StockTrek / Alamy

Russia has only four Ilyushin-80s, specially modified and equipped Il-86s to protect those on board in the event of a nuclear war. The plane does not have any passenger windows, to prevent passengers from contemplating due to atomic explosions.

The aircraft also carry specialized communications equipment to maintain contact with the country’s armed forces, including missile forces capable of launching nuclear strikes. The miles-long retractable antenna towed from the rear of the aircraft can maintain communications with ballistic missile submarines.

In the event of a conflict, Putin and other political and military officials are expected to board the planes and command the country’s defenses while remaining in the air, possibly for several days (with refueling).

Some of the details of the Ilyushin 80 are being kept secret by Russia. It is unclear how sensitive the wireless equipment was stolen.

These aircraft have been in service for 15 years and are due to be replaced by a larger range aircraft – Il-96-400M. New aircraft, designed to withstand the electromagnetic pulses emitted by nuclear explosions, and include better shielding, the electronics and communication systems have been modernized.

The United States maintains four advanced Boeing E-4 airborne command centers, and modified Boeing 747-200s that would carry the US president and other high-ranking officials in the event of a nuclear war.

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