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
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.
New Delhi, March 16: The era of the country's VVIPs
flying in style will dawn on April 1.
First Published: Monday, March 16, 2009, 00:00