Desi Air Force One snippets
The PM’s spanking new, highly-secure office in the sky is now finally ready for ‘inauguration’ after some delay. Manmohan Singh may well get a whiff or two of the plush environs but it will be the new PM who will enjoy the smooth ride after taking over in May-June. The three wide-bodied VVIP Boeing Business Jets, ordered in October 2005 at a total cost of Rs 937 crore, are likely to be formally inducted into IAF by end-March or early-April. Equipped as they are with high-tech self-protection suites to guard against missiles, encrypted satellite communication facilities and advanced navigation aids, the highly-customised aircraft will ensure the PM as well as President travel in fully secure comfort like never before. “The first flight by either the President or PM on one of the jets will mark their formal inauguration. It should happen within two-three weeks,’’ said a defence ministry officer. Asked whether Singh would take one of these jets if he goes for the G-20 Summit in London on April 2, the official only said, “The scheduling process for the first VVIP flight is still to be fully tied-up.’’ If the PM does indeed take the aircraft to the summit, also being attended by US President Barack Obama, he will have his own desi version of the American ‘Air Force One’ to brandish about. India has signed a specific end-use monitoring agreement (EUMA) with US for the three VVIP jets, which is required under American domestic laws. Being a government-to-government deal, the contract is governed by Pentagon’s ‘Golden Sentry’ EUMA programme, which focuses on “cradle-to-grave’’ verifications. Though the first of three jets had touched down in India last August, with the other two following subsequently, it’s only now that the extensive aircraft trials and intensive crew training has been completed. “They will replace the existing Boeing 737-200s, inducted in 1983, in the Communication Squadron. The inaugural VVIP flight on them has been delayed since the aircraft and crew had to be cleared,’’ said an officer. Though not as technically sophisticated as Obama’s Air Force One, the Indian planes do have quite potent systems to tackle incoming “hostile’’ missiles or other airborne threats. They cost Rs 937 cr. Equipped with high-tech self-protection suites to guard against missiles, advanced electronic countermeasures to jam hostile radars . PM will have a full-fledged executive office, bedroom on board, apart from facilities to host almost 50 guests . Controversy over whether American inspectors will be allowed to inspect them as part of monitoring agreement signed with US for the planes .
Labels: Air Force One India