Boeing Should Deliver Air India’s ‘Air Force One’ By September

Last week we reported on how India will be taking delivery of two new VIP aircraft from Boeing. India’s equivalent of “Air Force One,” these 777-300ERs will serve as transport for the Prime Minister, President, and Vice President. While initial reports had the delivery date as sometime next month, more recent reports say that the jets will likely be delivered to the Indian Government in September.

Modi Air India vip
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepping off an ‘old’ Air India VIP transport. Photo: Getty Images

A two-month delay

The Economic Times of India is reporting that the two custom-made Boeing 777-300ER aircraft used to fly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top Indian dignitaries are likely to be delivered from Boeing by September, as per information obtained from senior officials today. This represents a two-month delivery delay.

The two aircraft were originally supposed to be delivered next month, as per statements made by government officials in October 2019.

“There has been some delay, primarily because of COVID-19. The two planes are likely to be delivered by September,” -Government officials via The Economic Times of India

Although the aircraft will go to Air India, they will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force and not Air India.

Replacing the 747

Currently, India’s top government officials (including the Prime Minister) travel on Air India’s Boeing 747 aircraft. These aircraft are flown by Air India’s pilots and maintained by AIESL – a subsidiary of Air India.

Unlike some countries, which have fully dedicated aircraft for this purpose, the current 747s come from Air India’s commercial operations. Thus, when dignitaries aren’t traveling, the jumbo jets fly normal scheduled operations and carry paying passengers.

Unlike the current arrangement, the new 777 aircraft will be used exclusively for VIP travel.

Air India Boeing 747-400 registration number VT-ESP
Air India currently uses its 747s for Government VIP transport. Photo: Getty Images

Old Air India 777s

The two incoming aircraft were once part of Air India’s commercial fleet in 2018. However, they were eventually sent back to Boeing for retrofitting for VIP travel.

The planes will have features that are more fitting for high-level government officials. This includes Self-Protection Suites (SPS) and Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM). The plane will also include Advanced Electronic Warfare Suites for countermeasures while in the air.

Due to the sensitive nature of these security systems, India needed the approval of the US State Department in order to purchase them. The security systems alone are estimated to cost $190 million.

Air India Boeing 777 Bomb Threat
The two Boeing 777-300ERs were once operating as normal passenger aircraft with Air India before going to the United States for retrofitting. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Other government VIP aircraft news

2020 seems to be a notable year for government transport news. The South Korean equivalent of ‘Air Force One’ is getting an upgrade and will see the country’s president exchange a Boeing 747-400 for a new Boeing 747-8 leased from flag carrier Korean Air.

Korean presidential jet
Photo: Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography via Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, the German Government recently received its brand new Airbus A350 to transport the country’s leader. And much less exciting, the Canadian Government last week signed a deal for two Bombardier Challenger jets.

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