America isn’t the only superpower with a “Doomsday Plane” for its head of state. When Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to escape danger, he hops aboard this top-secret flying communications center.
A special missions variant of the Tupolev Tu-214 commercial transport aircraft, the Tu-214SR is Russia’s answer to the US E-4B, an airborne command and control plane built specifically for the Russian president’s use and considered successor to the Ilyushin Il-20 Coot, which has been in service for the better part of four decades. Produced by Aviastar SP and Kazan Aircraft Production Association, the twin-engine, long-endurance jet can carry 62 passengers with comparable range and speed to a Boeing 757. But unlike the Boeing, the Tu-214SR is packed to the gills with cutting-edge sensor and communications equipment.
While significantly less is known about capabilities of the 214SR than the E-4B, we do know that it carries an MRC-411 multi-intelligence payload, which includes electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensors, side-looking Synthetic Aperture Radar (to spot incoming air threats from long range), and a variety of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communications Intelligence (COMINT) equipment. Four onboard generators provide ample amperage while a set of external fuel tanks allow the plane to remain aloft for trips up to 10,000km.
The two such 214SRs entered service in 2008 with the Presidential Special Applications Squad and are operated by a crew of four. However, the plane was only declassified last year when it made its public debut at the Moscow Air Show. Since then, it’s been spotted in the skies above both the Sochi Olympics, and more recently — and ominously — in Crimea. [The Aviationist – Redstar – Wiki – Military Informant – Defence Update – Deangel]