The Prime Minister at present flies in Air India’s Boeing 747s on his long haul intercontinental journeys. But under a new plan, the jumbo jets are being replaced by two Boeing 777s.The new aircraft, fitted with self-protection suites and stateof-the-art features, will fill the security gap that existed in current Air India One which is a regular aircraft pulled out from the fleet for the Prime Minister or the President’s journeys.
It was earlier decided that the new Boeing 777-300s, to be tailor-made for VVIP flying, would be operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) instead of Air India just like “Air Force One” carrying the US President.
Under the new plan, the new aircraft will remain with Air India but the IAF personnel will only manage the self-protection suite accompanying the aircraft.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which is meeting on Saturday, will also discuss this new arrangement. The proposal is one of many items on the agenda of DAC.
The new aircraft will be made by Boeing as per India’s requirements of completely securing the VVIP from hostile missiles or any other threat posed in the operating environment.
The IAF has a communication squadron that flies the VVIP.
The squadron at present has three Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) purchased around 10 years ago. The BBJs – equipped with self protection suites — are used for short haul flights because of the range limitations offered by the narrow body aircraft Boeing 737.
The squadron also has five Embraer 135 Legacy executive jets that are mostly used by senior cabinet ministers handling key defence, home and external affairs portfolios and the service chiefs.
Officials said even the new jets being procured for VVIP flying can be utilised in the Air India fleet. The national carrier already flies Boeing 777s.
While deciding on the new aircraft, the Boeing 777 was seen as a logical choice as jumbo jets are going out of production and it would be difficult to maintain these machines in the long run.
The officials said that Boeing 777 is a well established platform and Air India has maintenance lines and expertise to handle the aircraft. It is the aircraft that will remain in service for long. The replacement of US Air Force One, however, will be newer version of Boeing 747.