April 1 date for President with business jets
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Last Updated: Monday, March 16, 2009, 00:00
New Delhi, March 16: The era of the country's VVIPs flying in style will dawn on April 1.

President Pratibha Patil will do the honours first by taking a ride on the Indian Air Force's Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) from the Palam air base that day, IAF officials said here on Monday.

"The inaugural flight of the VVIP jets on April 1 will have the President, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces, as its first passenger," officials said.

The three jets, bought from the United States last year at a cost of Rs 734 crore, has an additional Rs 200-crore Self Protection Suites (SPS) for electronic warfare integrated onto the aircraft to provide greater security from enemy missiles.

SPS include radar warning receivers, missile-approach warning systems and counter-measure systems. The aircraft would have the capability to shoot metal chaff and flares to deviate radar-guided missiles and heat-seeking missiles off the track.

India had placed orders for the three customised aircraft, which are derivatives of the latest planes of the Boeing 737 series in October 2005, and these jets have been built to provide a fully secure, comfortable long rides.

For procuring the aircraft, India had to sign a specific End-User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) with the US, required under American laws.

EUMA is to ensure the use of the BBJs by India for the purpose it was bought during the entire service span of the aircraft.

The contract is governed by Pentagon's 'Golden Sentry' EUMA programme and it is still not clear whether the Indian aircraft will be subjected to physical verification by US Inspectors or not.

The first of the three jets landed in India in August last year, with the other two following subsequently. Since then, the aircraft have undergone extensive flight trials and the crew has been trained for handling the IAF's latest induction.

The BBJs will replace the existing Boeing 737-200s, bought 20 years ago, of the IAF's Palam-based Communication Squadron, which is responsible for ferrying the President, the Prime Minister and other top government leaders.

The VVIP travelling in the BBJs would have a full-fledged executive office and bedroom on board, apart from facilities to host about 50 guests.

It would also act as a Command Post for the VVIP in case of emergencies, and provide a quieter ride.

To be named 'Rajdoot' after the first set of Tu-124s used by the squadron for VIP travel in 1970, the new BBJs are fitted with the fuel-efficient CFM-56 engines from US General Electric and French Snecma, and can cover a range of 6,000 nautical miles or 11,000 km, officials said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, March 16, 2009, 00:00

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