A United States plane designed to survive nuclear conflict took a training flight Monday amid heightening rhetoric from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to iNews, the specialized Boeing 747 has the call sign “GORDO15” and is known colloquially as the “doomsday plane.”
The aircraft took off from a U.S. Air Force base near Lincoln, Nebraska, for a training flight of over four hours.
National Airborne Operations Center 'doomsday' plane out from Lincoln, Nebraska
🇺🇸 US Air Force
73-1676 GORDO15 pic.twitter.com/vORqckXo2D
— 🇬🇧🇺🇦 CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) February 28, 2022
The “doomsday plane” is part of a fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft that the U.S. military has sustained for about 50 years, iNews reported.
The fleet is known as “Nightwatch,” and it was created “with the specific purpose of providing an airborne base for the US defense secretary and senior military personnel to conduct operations during a nuclear war.”
According to iNews, at least one of the planes is kept ready 24/7. It can stay stay in the air for multiple days and is “designed to withstand the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast.”
The four-and-a-half hour training flight was not necessarily out of the ordinary, though it was described as “unusual.” Aircraft from the “Nightwatch” fleet routinely conduct readiness and training flights, iNews reported.
However, the news of the flight took on a new meaning for many in light of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to the Associated Press, Putin told top Russian defense officials to put nuclear forces in a “special regime of combat duty” on Sunday.
The AP reported it was unclear whether this directive would change the state of Russian nuclear forces significantly or at all, but it did signal a strong response from Putin to sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries.
Putin also cited “aggressive statements regarding our country” in his reasoning for the move.
The United Kingdom downplayed the severity of Putin’s announcement, iNews reported. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the move was meant to distract from Russia’s slow progress in its invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden also appeared unfazed by the threat of nuclear conflict on Monday. When a reporter asked him whether he was concerned about a potential nuclear war against Russia, he quickly denied it.
President Joe Biden was asked if Americans should be worried about a nuclear war with Russia.
— NBC4 Washington (@nbcwashington) February 28, 2022
“We think provocative rhetoric like this regarding nuclear weapons is dangerous, adds to the risk of miscalculation, should be avoided, and [we] will not indulge in it,” Psaki said.
“We are assessing President Putin’s directive and at this time see no reason to change our own alert levels.”