What To Expect From India’s New “Air Force One”

India is all set to receive its two new VIP aircraft from Boeing next month. The aircraft will serve as transport for the Prime Minister, President, and Vice President – India’s equivalent of “Air Force One.” The two 777-300ERs, originally delivered to Air India, were acquired and sent to a Boeing facility in February to be fitted with new security systems. Let’s find out more.

Air India Boeing 777
India will operate two 777-300ERs for VIP transport exclusively. Photo: Tom Boon/Simple Flying

New VIP aircraft

India has long-planned to induct a long-haul fleet of aircraft for only VIP use. To this end, the government acquired two brand-new 777-300ERs from Air India. The two 777s were set to be used for commercial service, but now will only be used to transport the country’s leadership.

This likely allowed the government to save time by not needing to place a new aircraft order and be placed in a delivery queue. This could also be a cost reduction measure, as Air India likely bought the planes at a steep discount when it ordered them in 2006.

Air India One
An Air India 747-400 previously served as VIP transport. Photo: Ken H via Wikimedia Commons

The decision to acquire two new aircraft is a break from the past. Previously, the government used a fleet of 747-400s that were in commercial service by Air India. These planes were retrofitted with some security features and would simply be removed from passenger service to serve as VIP aircraft. However, the growing inefficiency and age of the plane, along with security requirements, likely made the government opt for new aircraft.

New branding

India’s VIP aircraft have been called Air India One, a reference to the Air India aircraft and the presence of the Prime Minister, President, or Vice President. However, the new 777s will feature an upgraded livery, with only the word “India” painted in English and Hindi, with the country’s emblem in the center. The tail also features an Indian flag, reminiscent of Air Force One.

The new livery, and the sale of Air India, has led some to believe that the government is looking to drop the Air India One callsign. However, it is unclear what this would be replaced with if it does decide to change. We will likely find out when the plane is delivered next month.

Advanced security measures

The primary purpose of the new planes is to offer advanced security to the passengers onboard. To be outfitted with these security features, the aircraft were sent to a Boeing facility in Dallas, Texas, in February. The new features mean the plane will be wholly operated by the Indian Air Force, and not Air India.

An Air India 777-300ER, the plane set to become the next Air India One
The new 777s will feature a number of advanced security features. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The plane will feature 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 State Department approval to purchase them. The security systems alone cost a whopping $190m.

While new VIP planes are definitely an expensive project, with nearly $780m earmarked, they do offer government officials with much-needed security when traveling. The planes are due to arrive in July and we are excited to see India’s new VIP planes in action!

What do you think about India’s new VIP planes? What are your thoughts on the new livery? Let us know in the comments below.