By Arie Egozi
Tel Aviv. The mystery around the Israeli “Air Force One” grows. In spite the huge sums of money spent so far, the aircraft is not in service and sources say that there are “heavy problems to be solved” before it goes into service. The special systems that are being installed in the Israeli “Air Force One” have brought the price of the project to more than 180 Million U.S $. The Israeli sources also pointed to an added cost until the aircraft is ready for service.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has formed a special team of pilots to fly the aircraft but as it is not in use the team was dismantled. The conversion of the 767 included the installation of the Elbit Systems MUSIC system that protects the aircraft from shoulder launched missiles and other systems.
In 2016, the Israeli cabinet had approved a budget for the purchase of an “Air Force One” style aircraft that will serve the Israeli prime minister. The budget of app. 100 million U.S $ was supposed to cover the purchase of the aircraft and its conversion for the mission. But as the conversion progressed, some extra demands were added by the relevant bodies, and that resulted in a need for an additional budget.
The converted 767 is supposed to perform flights of Israeli VIP mainly the prime minister and the president. Sources said that during the conversion work that has been performed so far, “design and regulatory ” problems surfaced, and these issues have to be solved before the aircraft is certified. In the meantime Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu travels on official visits by using passenger aircraft leased from Israeli airline EL AL.
-The writer is an International Roving Correspondent of the publication