India’s two new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft modified for VVIP head-of-state transport have arrived home this month, according to local reports.
The first aircraft landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi earlier this month and the second aircraft arrived on Saturday, Oct. 24. The two new aircraft will be used exclusively by the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister.
The two wide-body aircraft, registration VT-ALV and VT-ALW, originally joined the fleet of Indian flag carrier Air India in 2018 and were sent to the Boeing’s facility in Dallas Forth Worth in Texas for VVIP retrofit which include cabin modifications as well as the installation of state-of-the-art communication and missile defence systems. The Indian government paid Rs 4,632 crore (~USD627 million) to Air India for the two aircraft.
These aircraft are the first to be procured by India for exclusive VVIP flights and will replace the two Air India Boeing 747 “jumbo jet” aircraft, called Air India One, which were chartered from the flag carrier whenever a VVIP flight is scheduled. These 747s were usually used for commercial flight operations.
The new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft includes a VVIP suit, two conference rooms, a press briefing room, a patient transfer unit, secure video telephony and sound proofing.
The aircraft is fitted with the state-of-the-art missile defence, missile warning and electronic jamming systems. The aircraft is equipped with a Self-Protection Suites (SPS) consisting of AN/AAQ 24(V)N Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), ALQ-211(V)8 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS), and AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing System (CMDS).
Unlike Air India One, the two new B777 aircraft will be owned by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Air India will now de-register these aircraft and hand them over to the Air Force. These planes will be entered into the registry of the IAF and get a K-series registration number given to the military aircraft. The new B777 aircraft will also be flown by IAF pilots and not by the pilots of Air India as was the case of B747s. IAF pilots are being trained for the operation of the B777 by the Air India.
The new aircraft will be operated by IAF’s Air HQ Communication Squadron “Pegasus” and will be maintained by Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL), which is a subsidiary of the Indian national carrier.