New Delhi: India's president Pratibha Patil, will undertake a flight in the Indian version of the US Air Force One, which will be the newly acquired aircraft's maiden official flight. Three of these newly-acquired Business Boeing Jet (BBJ) have been inducted into the Indian Air Force's (IAF) VVIP Communications squadron.
The jet, named Rajdoot, is patterned on the US president's executive jet and is one of three purchased by the IAF. The aircraft is equipped with state-of-the-art security gadgets and the latest communication systems.
The flight will mark the formal induction of these jets into the IAF's Air Headquarters Communications Squadron based at the Palam Air Force Station in New Delhi. The squadron is responsible for ferrying the president, vice president, prime minister, service chiefs and other dignitaries on their visits within and outside the country..
The president's schedule will see her travelling to Lilabari in Assam, from where she will undertake a helicopter flight to Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, officials at the Rashtrapati Bhawan presidential complex said. The trip is part of a four day visit to north-eastern states of the country.
The BBJ's, essentially a newer generation Boeing 737 replace an older generation of the same model. The first Rajdoot was a Russian Tu-124 jet.
The aircraft enter service nine months behind schedule due mainly to integration problems of the missile defence system and also resolving end-user verification law issues with the US.
According to IAF sources, while one of the three aircraft will be dedicated for the president and the prime minister, the second will be used to ferry special guests and senior ministers. The third one will remain on standby.
The aircraft have a spacious VVIP cabin and can carry a total of 48 passengers.
Reportedly, the new jets are configured to the same security specifications as the Boeing-747 that currently flies the US president and are equipped with sophisticated electronic countermeasures, a protection suite, chaff dispensers to deal with missile threats, a secure satellite and VHF communication suite and other security gadgets.
Powered by two CFM-56 engines the long-range BBJs can function as command posts in the event of an emergency. The new jets are quieter, more fuel-efficient and have a range of up to 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km).