A large fleet of VIP transport aircraft belonging to the Russian Special Flight Detachment “Rossiya” took off from Moscow Vnukovo Airport (VKO) in the early hours of March 17, 2022.
The detachment is tasked with transporting Russian government officials. According to Planespotters data, it operates 29 aircraft, most of which are Russian-made Tupolev Tu-214, Ilyushin Il-96 and Sukhoi Superjet 100.
At least 10 of these aircraft have been observed taking off from VKO starting at 8:48 AM MSK (5:48 GMT) and heading Eastwards on various flight paths.
The convoy was first noticed by Twitter user Manu Gomez, and independently confirmed by AeroTime with the use of flight tracking services Flightradar24 and ADS-B Exchange.
What’s going on here?
-RuAF Tupolev Tu-204-300 RSD3
-RuAF Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B RSD71
-RuAF A319-115CJ RSD72
-RuAF An-148-100E RSD73
-RuAF Ilyushin Il-96-300PU RSD74
-RuAF Tupolev Tu-214PU RSD78
-RuAF Tupolev Tu-214SR RSD79
-RuAF SuperJet 100-95B RSD80 pic.twitter.com/FcmbtpbyNZ
— Manu Gómez (@GDarkconrad) March 17, 2022
At approximately 9:14 AM MSK one of the airplanes, a communications relay aircraft Tu-214SR, registered RA-64516, entered a holding pattern south of Tumen.
It must be noted that a greater number of Russian governmental aircraft may be in the air, as it is currently unknown how many Special Detachment “Rossiya” aircraft are equipped with ADS-B transponders, and how many of them have not kept their transponders on.
UPDATE 03-17-2022, 13:30 (UTC +2): All the aircraft from the convoy have landed in various Russian cities since this article went to print. The first aircraft to take off, Tupolev Tu-214PU (reg. RA-64532), landed at 10:04 AM GMT in Novosibirsk (OVB), before taking off again 22 minutes later and heading back in the direction of Moscow, followed by at least one other aircraft (Airbus A319-115CJ, reg. RA-73025).
RA-64516 communications relay aircraft landed in Omsk at 11:34 GMT, before later taking off for Moscow as well.
The remaining aircraft landed in Surgut, Tyumen, Omsk, and Ufa as well as several other cities in Russia.