By Neeraj Mahajan
India is all set to receive two wide-bodied Boeing-777-300ERs (“ER” for Extended Range) to replace the ageing – the 26-year-old fleet of Boeing 747-400s currently used to ferry the VVIPs as a part of the call sign – Air India One.
The ‘Air India One’ Flying Fortresses worth over Rs 1084 crore each will be flown by top-notch Indian Air Force pilots are used exclusively for the highest-ranking dignitaries in India namely the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister of India on their domestic and foreign trips.
Both the new Boeing-777-300ERs purchased for Air India One are currently being retrofitted at the Boeing Facility in Dallas (USA)with the world-class security make-over similar to US President’s Air Force One.
The Boeing-777-300ERs is the first aircraft to be fully digitally designed using 3D computer graphics eliminating the need for costly full-scale mock-ups. The result is an aircraft larger than all other twin-engine and tri-engine aircraft and smaller than Boeing 747 aircraft.
The aircraft is currently available in six models: 777-200, 777-200ER (Extended Range), 777-200LR (Longer-Range), 777-300, 777-300ER and 777F (freighter). A seventh member – 777X is under development slated for entry into service soon.
The 777-300ER is a derivative of 777-300 with raked wingtips for additional cruise altitude and range. A lighter structure makes it a fuel-efficient aircraft with powerful General Electric twin GE90-115 engines, Pratt & Whitney PW4000 or Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engine – it can accommodate between 339 and 370 passengers and can fly at 900kmph.
An onboard performance tool allows the pilot to calculate the ideal speed and engine setting for an aircraft, in any weather condition, on any runway with any payload.
Some of the special features in the two VVIP Boeing-777-300ER jets may include Advanced Electronic Warfare Suites for countermeasures while in the air, Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS) besides other features for missile defence, and advanced communications
The idea behind all this is to ensure the safety of the VVIPs in case of an unfortunate event in the air. These jets will not only be equipped to fend off a hostile attack from ground or air but also take countermeasures in case of an attack. The aircraft will also have the capability to shoot flares to distract heat-seeking missiles and drones.
Unlike the past where the 747-400 was also used for commercial flights, the new Boeing-777-300ER jets will be used only for VVIP flights. Each of the new Boeing-777-300ER jets will have missile-deflecting systems, global positioning system, modern flight management system, and state of the art instrument landing systems.
Each of the Boeing-777-300ER jets which will be a feather in Air India One’s crown will have a well-equipped conference room, an operation theatre, a spacious bedroom, a special lounge and store adequate food.
The Boeing-777-300ER jets will be operated by Indian Air Force pilots and maintained by Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL), a subsidiary of Air India.
Each flight of Air India One flight would have four pilots, a dedicated team of doctors and highly trained commandos to protect the President/Vice/Prime Minister on board.
The first batch of Indian Air Force pilots who will fly the Boeing-777-300ER has completed their training.
Boeing-777-300ERs are already being used for VIP transport in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Bangladesh, and a few other nations.