A saboteur attack on a Russian airbase was likely the result of a remote detonation, according to an expert.
Ukrainian Military Intelligence reported that unidentified saboteurs blew up two Russian planes and one helicopter on September 18 at a prominent base just outside of Moscow used to store “doomsday” nuclear planes.
Aviation expert Kostiantyn Kryvolap, speaking with NV Radio, said the attack was likely detonated from afar as opposed to servicemen sneaking behind enemy lines.
He said: “It was sabotage work. A bomb was planted either at this Chkalovsky airfield or somewhere else, from where the helicopter flew, but it was done and then remotely detonated. It’s hard to imagine anything else.”
Chkalovsky Air Base, which is 31km west of Moscow, has gained recognition for hosting government aircraft, commonly known as “doomsday planes” and specialised reconnaissance aircraft.
The planes were AN-148 and an IL-20 aircraft, both belonging to the 354th Special Purpose Aviation Regiment, as well as a MI-28N helicopter.
The latter had been actively engaged in countering Ukrainian drone attacks.
Ukrainian intelligence said that the damage caused to aircraft would prevent them from being repaired any time soon, claiming the explosion hit the helicopter’s tail. These claims have not been independently verified.
The Directorate of Military Intelligence of Ukraine said the operation “caused quite a bit of hysteria in the higher [Russian] military corridors”.
Speaking about the doomsday planes stored at the Chkalovsky base, Kryvolap said parts for these planes are hard to come by and could significantly impact Russia’s defences.
He said: “These planes were designed and manufactured individually.
“They cannot be [manufactured] with plenty to spare. They have several modifications.
“But in any case, the destruction of at least one such aircraft significantly affects the communication sphere, air defence, and missile defence.”
Kryvolap explained: “Detailed information is protected as a Russian state secret. But it’s known this is a modification of an IL-86 aircraft, a well-known wide-body passenger plane.
“It has closed portholes, increased airframe durability, fuselage, wings, and more stable landing gear.
“After this load and additional radio and electronic equipment, it became very heavy, so it needs quite a long runway.
“And this is an aircraft that can start the launch sequence of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons.”
Kryvolap said four of these types of planes have been built in Russia, but it is believed only one of them, is operational.
Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate said Russia looking for the culprits and has surpassed media reporting about the attack.
While Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack at Chkalovsky, it came just days before another strike on Russia’s Saky airbase in occupied Crimea.