The Ilyushin II-80, popularly known as Russia's Doomsday plane, will mark its presence during the Victory Parade to be held on May 9, the Chinese news site Xinhua reported. The aircraft was recently spotted during the rehearsal parade.
The Victory Parade is an annual event held to commemorate the victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front during World War II. Known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, the victory is remembered with a military parade in Moscow's Red Square on May 9. Marking the 77th anniversary of this event, this year's rehearsal saw participation from 11,000 people, 131 types of weapons, and 77 aircraft, including the Doomsday plane.
The Ilyushin II-80
Russia is the only country other than the U.S. that boasts of a doomsday plane, an airborne command and control aircraft that can keep important military officials and heads of state away from harm in case of a nuclear attack.
Modeled on the aircraft maker's II-86 commercial aircraft, the II-80 is markedly different as it does not have any window slots along the fuselage. Only the cockpit sports windows, which are covered by baffles, reportedly to prevent exposure to electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
A SATCOM canoe sits above the cockpit while the aircraft tail houses a winch to tow the very-low-frequency (VLF) antennae that extend when the aircraft is airborne. A retractable fueling probe can also be seen near the cockpit.
Rarely spotted aircraft
In service for over three decades, the Russian plane has rarely been spotted. So little so that they were first photographed a good five years after their first flight.
Even after that, the aircraft sightings have remained scarce, with one reported during an air show. The recent spotting during the rehearsal saw the aircraft flanked by two MiG-29 fighter jets, the news site reported.
Four aircraft were introduced into service, but as of 2011, only three remain. Reports suggest that plans are already afoot, with two II-96-400M, another commercial aircraft, being brought in as replacements.