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Boeing 777-300ER : New VVIP Aircraft (20 August 2020)

Boeing 777- 300ER : New VVIP Aircraft (20 August 2020)

Why in News:

As per media reports first specially modified Boeing-777 VVIP aircraft, capable of countering missile threats will arrive in India from the United States by August-end followed by the second one a month later. These planes will be used by President, Vice President and Prime Minister of India for their foreign travel.

Background:

The two brand new planes joined the Air India fleet in early 2018 and returned to Boeing’s headquarters in Dallas Fort-Worth in the U.S. six months later so that the passenger aircraft could be completely overhauled.

The first of these two planes was scheduled to return to India by June 30 and the other by July 30. But they will now return on August 30 and September 30 respectively.

The Boeing 777-300ER that are all set to arrive into India will replace the earlier 747-400.

Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1)

  • India has become the third Asian country after Japan and South Korea to get the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status in 2018.
  • The granting of STA-1 status to India on comes after the US recognised India as a “Major Defence Partner” in 2016.
  • India is the 37th country to be designated the STA-1 status by the United States.
  • By placing India in the STA-1 list, the United States has acknowledged that for all practical purposes India adheres to the export control regimes of the NSG.
  • This action befits India’s status as a Major Defence Partner and recognises” the country’s membership in three of the four export control regimes — the MTCR, WA and AG.
  • This recognition facilitates and supports India’s military modernisation efforts with the U.S. as a reliable provider of advanced defence articles

Need for India:

  • For last 30 years, India is using this Boeing 747, a commercial flight for VVIP, basically President, Prime Minister and Vice-President, whenever they were going out and whenever they are moving inside the country, it was basically India Air Force communication squadron which is a VVIPs flight.
  • The Boeing 747 was a very ad hoc arrangement.
  • The Boeing which was of Air India, the commercial one did not have any security aspect involved in that.
  • India is emerging superpower now, so it must have a specialized aircraft for its VVIPs due to increasing security threat.
  • Air India is no more going to be a national carrier, because it is going to be privatized. Therefore, there is need that country must have its own aircraft which is exclusively for President, Prime Minister and Vice-President.

Advantages of this Aircraft:

  • This aircraft can go around the whole world in one go.
  • It will equip with missile warning sensors and counter measures dispensing defence system.
  • It will include a suite comprising a bedroom and a bathroom, a press conference room and a conference room for VVIPs.
  • Basically, the biggest threat that an aircraft faces when it take off from an airfield, during takeoff and just before landing is the threat of man pads or man portable surface to air missile systems, which are basically shoulder fired missiles. So, this aircraft is going to get equipment which will disable such missiles.
  • One of the systems is the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS)

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Conclusion:

  • In the beginning two aircraft is good enough because even the Air Force one, the two identical aircraft which is available to President of USA is two only. Also the modification which has been carried out is very costly.

Important points made by the Guests

Manu Pubby, Senior Editor, Economic Times

  • There has been a big gap as far as VVIP travel is concerned in India. We have not had an aircraft in which The President, The Prime Minister and The Vice President can travel safely over long distance.
  • Currently, India have two basic aircraft which carrying VVIPs; one is the Embraer Jet, which have been there for a long time; and another is Boeing Business Jet, these are fitted with a lot of systems which gives VVIPs security including missile counter measures, but they have limited by a range, so they can’t fly beyond the country or to neighbouring countries.
  • But for long travel such as Europe and USA, The President, The Prime Minister and The Vice President were flying basically commercial aircraft, Air India aircraft by Air India, which were reconfigured by VIP duty but without any protection. So, the 777, which we are getting now, these are basically Air India aircraft, which have been retrofitted now with special systems which will make them less vulnerable to ground base threats. So, these are being fitted with Boeing specialized equipment. 
  • The aircraft is going to come hopefully at the end of August; they were slightly delayed because of the COVID crisis.
  • India signed the deal with America. It was a government to government deal signed last year in 2019, it was approved. The aircraft is separate because it is already Air India aircraft, but the systems which are going to board are specialised systems which are not given to many countries. They are worth about $ 190 million.
  • Besides the protection of the aircraft, it also has advanced communication systems. So, VVIPs travelling will be able to communicate directly, real time, there will be meeting rooms inside, it will be able to carry security personnel on board.
  • So, it has a lot of enhancements and these will be the first long-range specialized aircraft that India has as of now.
  • The Boeing business jet which India got in 2009, they had similar systems on board in terms of missile avoidance and their delivery took much longer, so this aircraft expected to come in next few weeks.

Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd.), Addl Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies

  • VVIPs travel is a specialized travel and that is done by the Air Headquarters Communication Squadron at palam.
  • The people in the communication squadron are specially selected, they are security verified, each and every person whether it is a pilot or technician or the DSC guard, which guards the aircraft at palam and other places.
  • The Boeing 777 is in service with Air India for very long time. So, two aircraft for diverter have been redone or refurbished as per the requirements of communication squadron.
  • A very important aspect is the maintenance of the aircraft, the maintenance as per media reports would stay with the Air India as was the case with the previous Boeing 737, because Air India is a specialist agency and you cannot set up servicing facilities just for two aircraft. So, Air India Engineering Services would be tasked to carry this out.
  • All these aircrafts, when they are going to threat zones will have self-protection measures, there is a special self-protection suite (sps), which is mounted and that is highly classified.
  • The Boeing 777 will not have air to air refuelling.
  • Even once this aircraft comes, straight away it will not start flying the VVIPs; there will still be an overlap time.

Maj Gen Ashwani Kumar Siwach (Retd.), Defence Expert

  • This Boeing 777, we have already got it and from Air India this has been taken by Indian Air Force or by the government and they were sent to carry out this modification.
  • The two-three modifications, which has been carried out are very important one; it has got large aircraft infrared countermeasure and a special protection suit.
  • It has a jamming facility, it can intercept any missile which is fired on this aircraft, Special Protection Suit give the capability of staying in a particular safe place which has got protection from electronic warfare also.
  • This modification has been carried out by Boeing only and the government have spent 190 million dollars for this, because this was very much required.
  • This is not given to many countries, it’s mainly used by USA President and their Air Force and second one possibly given to India or some NATO countries.
  • India and USA is now Strategic Trade Authorization-1, which India signed with USA in 2018 after both countries became a strategic partner and USA can transfer technology to India.
  • India has become the third Asian country after Japan and South Korea to get the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status.
  • USA accepted India’s demand of giving the state of art, a defence system which is available because also that in 2017, India has signed COMCASA. So, while doing this USA are ready to give India two state of art system which is very important for safety and security.

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