Two custom-made B777 planes, which will be used to fly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top Indian dignitaries from July next year, will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and not of Air India.

Air India is training around 10 IAF pilots for the new aircraft Boeing 777 to be used to fly PM Modi and other top Indian dignitaries from July 2020.

It will be for the first time that Air India pilots won’t fly with ‘Air India One’ special aircraft.

However, the new wide-body planes will be maintained by Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL), which is a subsidiary of the Indian national carrier, a senior official was quoted as saying by PTI.

Currently, Prime Minister Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu 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 AIESL maintains them. When these B747 aircraft are not flying the dignitaries, they are used by the Indian national carrier for commercial operations.

The two new B777 planes which will come to India from US facility of Boeing by July next year will have the call sign ‘Air India One’.

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 total $190 million.

The defence systems would bring the security of ‘Air India One’ at par with that of ‘Air Force One’ used by the US President Donald Trump.

The purpose of the LAIRCM programme is to protect large aircraft from man-portable missiles. Once installed, the LAIRCM system increases crew-warning time, decreases false alarm rates and automatically counters advanced intermediate-range missile systems, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

The missile warning subsystem will use multiple sensors to provide full spatial coverage.

The counter-measures subsystem will use lasers mounted in pointer-tracker turret assemblies. It also automatically counters advanced intermediate-range missile systems with no action required by the crew.

The pilot will simply be informed that a threat missile was detected and jammed.

According to Pentagon, the sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping to strengthen the India-US strategic relationship

Meanwhile, the Centre is planning to initiate the process of divestment of its stake in Air India, which has a debt of over Rs 60,000 crore, from November this year.

(With PTI inputs)