US ‘doomsday plane’ flies to Europe

The US Navy’s key aircraft in case of nuclear war has landed in Iceland, the US European Command (EUCOM) reported on Tuesday, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law Moscow’s suspension of the New START nuclear treaty.

According to a post on the command’s Twitter account, the crew of the E-6B Mercury, assigned to US Strategic Command’s Wing One, met with the US Ambassador to Iceland as well as other diplomatic and military leaders. The aircraft is conducting operations in the EUCOM area of responsibility, according to the statement.

The E-6B Mercury aircraft is commonly referred to as a “doomsday plane” because it is designed to serve as an airborne command post in the event of an all-out nuclear war, disaster or other large-scale conflict.

According to the Pentagon, the plane allows the US command to communicate with both strategic and non-strategic weapons systems, making it possible to launch ground and submarine-based ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The news came just after Moscow sent Washington an official note on the suspension of Russia’s participation in the New START treaty – the last remaining nuclear arms reduction agreement between the US and Russia. The treaty was supposed to limit both nations’ nuclear stockpiles and allow each to monitor the opposing arsenal to confirm compliance. However, both Moscow and Washington have accused the other of failing to adhere to the agreement to allow such inspections.

Putin announced the temporary suspension of the treaty last week, accusing the US of trying to refashion the international order to suit its selfish interests,” and of demanding that Russia abide by treaties “while they do as they please.” The president also pointed to statements made by Western leaders that they wished to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia while openly aiding attempted Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia’s strategic aviation bases.

Before Moscow can resume observing the treaty, Putin said it must have “a clear idea” of NATO’s nuclear arsenal – including weapons held by the UK and France, who he said are welcome to join the pact.

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