India recently took delivery of two new VIP aircraft for use by the Prime Minister, President, and other state dignitaries. The modified 777-300ERs, commonly known as “Air India One,” are India’s first dedicated VIP widebody fleet. These ex-Air India planes have also received a significant cabin upgrade and new security systems over the last year. Let’s find out more about the new Air India One.
India has long used a fleet of four Air India 747s as its VIP aircraft for long-haul missions. These planes are usually in commercial service and are pulled out when needed for special missions. However, these aircraft had begun to show their age and didn’t have many dedicated features that are key to presidential aircraft.
The Indian government opted to upgrade the aging 747s to a fleet of two 777-300ERs. These aircraft were originally set to go to Air India but were later chosen to serve as the new Air India One fleet. The planes previously held the registration VT-ALW and VT-ALV, but will likely receive new ones once they begin service as Presidential aircraft.
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The two 777s were first delivered to Air India 2018 but never entered commercial service, according to Planespotters.net. Instead, they were ferried to a Boeing facility in Dallas, Texas, to undergo installation of new security systems and retrofitted cabin.
Extensive security system
The primary reason to purchase the new aircraft was to install new security and communication systems. The new Air India One will feature two new security upgrades: Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS). These systems protect the aircraft in the event of any mid-air attacks and are similar to those found on Air Force One. The plane also features Advanced Electronic Warfare Suites for counterattacks during operation.
These systems are a part of a $190 million purchase by the Indian government, which required State Department approval due to the technology’s sensitive nature. With these systems, Air India One is set to be one of the safest aircraft in the sky.
However, security features are not the only thing Air India One shares with its American counterpart. The new livery also features the flag of India on its tail and the insignia of the Indian Air Force on the rear fuselage. The most distinctive feature of the livery is the “INDIA” and “BHARAT,” separated by India’s state emblem, painted across the side of the aircraft.
Some Air India crew members recently found themselves in hot water after leaking photos of the new Air India One. While the government is yet to release photos of the inside of the aircraft, we do have some preliminary images of the cabin.
— Visakh Koyippurathu (@VisakhVimala) October 3, 2020
The planes seem to feature a brand-new VIP interior, with a variety of seating options. The cabin includes business class recliners, conference tables, and more regular seats. We can also expect a medical area and a private residence for the VIP onboard. We will likely see more images once the plane enters service next year.
Overall, the new Air India One fleet represents a huge upgrade from the current generation of retrofitted 747s. These planes will be India’s go-to Presidential/Prime Ministerial aircraft for years to come and we can expect to see them around the world soon!
What do you think about the new Air India One? Let us know in the comments below!