The second customised Boeing-777 plane for the VVIP travel of Prime Minister and President is set to land in Delhi on Saturday.
The first of the two custom-made B777 aircraft arrived from the US in India earlier this month. The two jets will be used to fly the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister.
Both the aircraft are equipped with missile defence systems, as efficient as that of the US President's Air Force One. The two aircraft have can fly directly from India to the US without having to stop. These are India's first two aircraft designated for VVIP travel.
It was expected that the delivery of these two planes would be done by July. However, due to COVID-19, their delivery has been delayed by a few months.
During the travel of the VVIPs, the two B777 aircraft will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and not of Air India.
Currently, the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister fly on Air India's B747 planes, which have the call sign Air India One. Air India pilots fly these B747 aircraft for the dignitaries and the Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) maintains them.
When these B747 aircraft are not flying the dignitaries, they are used by the Indian national carrier for commercial operations.
The new planes will be used for travel of the dignitaries only.
These two aircraft were part of Air India's commercial fleet for a few months in 2018 before they were sent back to Boeing for retrofitting them for VVIP travel.
The B777 planes will have state-of-the-art missile defence systems called Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS).
In February, the US agreed to sell the two defence systems to India at a cost of USD 190 million.
The Centre has already initiated the process of divestment of its stake in Air India, which has a debt of over Rs 60,000 crore. However, the process has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(With PTI inputs)