Israel’s New $300m Boeing 767 Air Force One Is Facing Opposition

Israel’s new VIP transport could be sold before it even enters service. The modified Boeing 767-338ER has been with the Israeli Air Force for four years and was taken on to the transport Israeli Prime Minister and the President of the State of Israel. However, it has faced significant opposition from certain officials.

Could this head of state aircraft be abandoned before serving its role? Photo: LLHZ2805 via Wikimedia Commons

A costly program

The “Wing of Zion” conducted its first flight after conversion on November 3rd, 2019. Holding registration 4X-ISR, it is yet to enter service and has been under scrutiny for the high costs, leading to overruns. The original budget for the acquisition, modification, and upgrading of the Israeli “Air Force One” was ₪393 million ($115 million). However, by the time of the first flight, costs grew by 50%.

Israel Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has reportedly been trying to offload the widebody. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will make the final call after input from President Isaac Herzog. Notably, the pair only took on their positions within the last month.

Air Force One, Joe Biden, United Kingdom
With a similar livery scheme and role, the Wing of Zion has drawn comparison to the Air Force One. Photo: Getty Images

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Significant pushback

Regardless, the scrutiny of the project has been long-standing. Lapid has been a strong opposer for years. Israeli major news site, Ynet, reports that he wants the plane to be sold just months before it is ready to be worthy of service.

Lapid previously said the following, according to Ynet.

“When we are in government, we will sell it and transfer the money to where it really is needed. I told [Benjamin] Netanyahu, ‘You do not need this plane. Not when the state fails to finance emergency rooms.'”

Lapid has not changed his tone since forming part of the new government. On the other hand, Israel’s defense department is against this notion. It argues that the country’s head needs a safe and secure method of transport.

Israel 4X-ISR
Extensive work on the aircraft includes seating for an entourage of 116 passengers. Photo: LLHZ2805 via Wikimedia Commons

A grand project

When in operation, the prime minister can expect to have luxury amenities such as a bed and shower cubicle. There is also a kitchen and office/meeting room with video conferencing facilities. There is also a section for staff and press. Haaretz highlights that notable exterior upgrades include a Sky Shield missile defense system and communications system forming a bump on the back.

According to ch-aviation, the aircraft traces its operational routes back to June 2000 when it was delivered to Qantas as registration VH-OGV. Then, from 2003, it served with Australian Airlines before returning to Qantas’ holdings in the summer of 2006. The 767 entered storage at the end of 2013 before Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM) got hold of it at the turn of 2016. Finally, the plane was delivered to the Israeli Air Force in September 2017.

Overall, there has been a series of delays to the program. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to be the one to debut the aircraft. However, he ordered the freezing of testing amid the pandemic. Now, the new prime minister may not even fly this 767 amid ongoing opposition.

What are your thoughts about the “Israeli Air Force One” and its prospects? Do you feel that the authorities should keep hold of it? Let us know what you think in the comment section.