The great plane robbery: Thieves strike Russia’s nuke-proof ‘Doomsday jet’ flying command center and steal radio equipment
- Thieves broke into one of Russia’s rare Ilyushin Il-80 Maxdome aircraft on Friday
- They stole 39 pieces of equipment from the plane in a major security breach
- The plane was being given an upgrade at the time of the break-in
- Russia’s president Vladimir Putin would be able to issue commands in the event of a full-scale war from the aircraft, and order the launch of nuclear missiles
Thieves have stolen equipment from a Russian ‘Doomsday plane’ designed to survive a nuclear war and act as a flying command centre for Russia‘s president.
In a major security breach, radio equipment was stolen from inside the Russian Aerospace Forces’ rare Ilyushin Il-80 Maxdome aircraft – of which only four are in service – as it was being upgraded.
As the plane was undergoing maintenance, ‘unknown persons opened the cargo hatch’ and stole equipment, according to Russia’s state-run media outlet RIA Novosti.
Reports said 39 pieces of equipment were stolen after a cargo hatch was opened while the Ilyushin Il-80 was grounded in the southwestern Russian city of Taganrog, on the Sea of Azov, last Friday.
There are just four Il-80s in service, one of which was broken into by thieves who stole 39 pieces of equipment while it was undergoing maintenance in southwestern Russia
The equipment contained precious metals including gold and platinum which is seen as a possible motive for the theft. It weighed several kilogrammes.
A Russian transport police source was quoted by Interfax as saying: ‘Beriev Aircraft Company reported that a cargo hatch breach was discovered during an inspection of one of the aircraft.’
It added that all equipment was intact at its last inspection on November 26.
Beriev is responsible for fitting out and upgrading equipment used in several varieties of special mission aircraft used by the Russian Aerospace Forces.
Investigators have taken fingerprints and shoeprints from inside the aircraft with the hope of tracking down the thieves responsible.
A spokesman from the Interior Ministry confirmed that an investigation was underway into the incident.
The windowless Il-80 is one of four so-called Doomsday planes designed to act as a Kremlin in the sky in the event of nuclear attack.
As the plane was undergoing maintenance, ‘unknown persons opened the cargo hatch’ and stole equipment, reports from Russia said
Putin would be able to rule Russia and issue commands to his military from the airborne command post in the event of a full-scale war.
This includes the ability to order a nuclear strike.
The crown jewel of the Il-80’s equipment is known as Zveno-S, which includes an advanced communications suite that uses satellite antennas housed on top in a large oval-shaped pod towards the front on the plane.
From the aircraft, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin would be able to issue commands in the event of a full-scale war, and order the launch of nuclear missiles. Pictured: An Ilyushin Il-80 and two fighter jets participate in a fly-over over Moscow’s red square
Taganrog airport, where the Il-80 was being upgraded by the Beriev Aircraft Company, when thieves broke through its cargo hatch in a major security breach
Ilyushin Il-80: Putin’s flying war room
Length: 200 feet (60 m)
Wingspan: 160 feet (48 m)
Cruising speed: 530 mph (850 km/h)
Range: 2,230 miles (3600 km)
Engine type: Kuznetsov NK-86
First flight: March 5, 1987
Number built: 4
Two more large pods – attached under the wings – each carry a turbine engine that services as an additional power supply source for the on-board equipment.
There is also a special very low frequency (VLF) antenna system used for communicating with submarines carrying ballistic missiles.
Il-80s were first flown in 1987 and an upgrade programme was launched in 2008, in which the second version of Zveno-S was introduced to at least two of the planes.
It is possible that work to upgrade the system was being undertaken on the aircraft when the thieves broke in and stole the radio equipment.
The US equivalent of the aircraft is the Boeing E-4B planes based on the 747 airliner.
Russia had earlier announced it was replacing the Il-80 with a plane based on the upgraded Il-96-400M wide-body airliner.
Russian has previously showcased the aircraft at Red Square military displays.