Russia has started work on two new "Doomsday planes" which are designed to survive a nuclear apocalypse, it has been reported.
The country’s existing "Doomsday" planes, the Ilyushin Il-80s, were developed in the 1980s and are designed to evacuate the Russian president and other top officials in the event of a nuclear conflict and allow them to send orders to forces on the ground.
A new version of the plane, modeled after the Ilyushin Il-96-400M, is currently being manufactured in the southern Russian city of Voronezh, state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Monday citing an unnamed source in the military-industrial complex.
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These planes will reportedly be kitted out with technology to launch Russia’s nuclear arsenal, including submarines, strategic bombers, and missile launchers from a distance as far as 6,000km away.
"The Russian Aerospace Forces will receive two air command posts based on the Il-96-400M. One is in production," RIA Novosti quoted its source as saying.
Like their predecessors, the new planes will be able to refuel mid-flight and will be accompanied by fighter jets.
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In addition to being more technologically advanced than the Il-80, the Il-96-400M is expected to be able to fly for twice as far as the Il-80, RIA Novosti reported.
Many details about the Il-80 are unknown as information about the planes and their contents are classified as state secrets.
The news comes days after Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected a prototype of a new Sukhoi fifth-generation fighter jet.
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Russia's new warplane, given the project name "Checkmate", is likely to be touted as a rival to the US F-35 stealth fighter, said Oleg Panteleyev, head of the Aviaport analytical agency.
The warplane is expected to take to the skies in 2023 with a first batch due to be produced in 2026, Yury Slyusar, head of the United Aircraft Corporation told reporters.
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Russia plans to produce 300 of the aircraft over 15 years once serial production begins, he said.
Rostec, Russia's state aerospace and defence conglomerate, said the plane was hard to detect and would have low operating costs.
Its chief, Sergei Chemezov, said it would cost $25 million to $30 million (£18-22m), the RIA news agency reported.
Moscow expected demand from nations in the Middle East, Asia Pacific region, and Latin America, he said.
Putin also recently said the Russian navy can detect any enemy and launch an "unpreventable strike" if needed.
"We are capable of detecting any underwater, above-water, airborne enemy and, if required, carry out an unpreventable strike against it," Putin said speaking at a navy day parade in St Petersburg on Sunday, July 25.
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