SOURCE: THE PRINT
Air India One, the highly customised wide-bodied Boeing 777-300 ERs, meant exclusively for the Indian Prime Minister, President and the Vice-President, is set to land in Delhi by early next week, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said that while the first aircraft will land next week, the second will arrive by the end of this year. The aircraft, which has its own missile defence system, called the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS) besides state-of-the-art communication system, will be operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF), although Air India would receive it.
As and when the handover to the IAF is complete, the call sign is likely to change from Air India One to Air Force One, just like the one used by American Presidents.
A team consisting of senior officers from Air India, IAF and security agencies are already in the US to finish the formalities and bring the aircraft to India.
The aircraft has Bharat and India written over it, besides the Ashoka emblem.
At present, VVIPs travel long hours on Air India’s Boeing 747 aircraft. However, the aircraft is not capable of flying more than 10 hours without refuelling. The new aircraft can fly over 17 hours continuously without refuelling.
For shorter distances, aircraft from IAF’s Communications Squadron’s VVIP fleet of Boeing business jet and Embraer executive jet are used.
The two new 777-300 ERs are part of the 2005 decision to buy 68 aircraft from Boeing.
Air India One is heavily modified
Sources said that the two new aircraft have been heavily modified keeping in mind that the planes are exclusively meant for VVIPs.
The plane has the capability to function as a full-fledged flying command centre — thanks to its advanced and secure communication system, which facilitates audio and video communication without being hacked or tapped, just like the American Air Force One, sources added.
The interior of the aircraft has been divided into a big cabin for VVIP passengers, a mini medical centre, conference room and also seats for the accompanying entourage.
Air India One to have state-of-art defence system
The Air India One will be equipped with a Self-Protection Suite, capable of jamming enemy radar frequencies, diverting heat-seeking missiles and intercepting advanced intermediate range missile systems. All this can be done without the intervention of the crew.
In February last year, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency had, in a notification to the Congress, said the US had approved the purchase of LAIRCAM and SPS for an estimated cost of USD 190 million.
The defence systems, which would bring security of Air India One at par with that of Air Force One, would be installed in two Boeing 777 Head-of-State aircraft, the Pentagon said.
LAIRCM is for protecting large aircraft from man-portable missiles. Once installed, the LAIRCM system increases crew-warning time, decreases false alarm rates and automatically counters advanced intermediate range missile systems, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
The missile warning subsystem will use multiple sensors to provide full spatial coverage.
The counter-measures subsystem will use lasers mounted in pointer-tracker turret assemblies. It also automatically counters advanced intermediate range missile systems with no action required by the crew, the report said.
The pilot will simply be informed that a threat missile was detected and jammed.
Noting that it will improve India’s capability to deter regional threats, the Congressional notification said SPS will facilitate a more robust capability into areas of increased missile threats.
According to the notification, India had requested to buy two SPS consisting of AN/AAQ 24(V)N Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures, ALQ-211(V)8 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) and AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing System (CMDS) to protect two Boeing-777 Head-of-State aircraft.
“This potential sale would include 12 Guardian Laser Transmitter Assemblies AN/AAQ-24 (V)N (6 installed and 6 spares), eight (8) LAIRCM System Processor Replacements (LSPR) AN/AAQ-24 (V)N (2 installed and 6 spares); twenty-three (23) Missile Warning Sensors (MWS) for AN/AAQ-24 (V)N (12 installed and 11 spares), five (5) AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing System (CMDS) (2 installed and 3 spares),” the notification said.
It added that the deal also included Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDEWS), among others.