Russia Upgrades Airborne Command Post

 - December 7, 2015, 8:40 AM
One of Russia’s rarely seen Il-80 airborne command posts. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

One of Russia’s four Ilyushin Il-80 airborne command posts has been modernized and has passed state acceptance trials. It will be handed back to the defense ministry later this month. The announcement was made by the United Instrument-building Corporation.

The Il-80 is a modified version of the four-engine Il-86, the first Russian widebody passenger jetliner. The four airplanes were built in 1985 by the VASO aircraft plant in Voronezh, although not accepted into service for another seven years. They are sometimes referred to as the Il-86VKP, this suffix being the Russian abbreviation for “airborne control post.” NATO assigned the reporting name Maxdome to the type.

Both the Il-80 and its larger American equivalent, the Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post, are intended to control armed forces in the event of a nuclear war or of all-out conventional war with massive air strikes. The Il-80 carries senior commanders of the Russian armed forces, along with a team of officers from the general headquarters and a group of technical specialists to service the onboard equipment. According to the United Instrument-building Corporation, the airplane’s staff can execute control over the Land Forces, Navy, Air-and-Space Force and Strategic Missile Nuclear Force. The Il-80 can also be used during the overseas deployment of troops, or when ground-based control infrastructure is not available.

The Il-80 has a gross weight of 208 metric tons (457,000 pounds) and a maximum unrefueled range of 11,000 km (about 6,000 nm). Outwardly, the Il-80 differs from the baseline passenger jet in having a large satcom dome above the front fuselage; an in-flight refueling probe; and two 9.5-m (3 foot)-long underwing pods each carrying a turbine generator that feeds electrical power to onboard systems. There are only a few fuselage windows and hatches, so as to protect the equipment inside from the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.

The United Instrument-building Corporation further reports that it has already started work on a third-generation airborne command post. This effort is led by its member company NPP Polyet, based in Nizhny Novgorod.