28 May 2024

New air force VIP jets to arrive in Canberra in July

| Andrew McLaughlin
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air force VIP jet

One of the two future RAAF Boeing 737 MAX 8 BBJs on a test flight from Basel Airport in Switzerland in March. Photos: Screenshot YouTube/AeroProductions.

The Defence Department has reportedly decided to buy outright two new Boeing 737 special-purpose aircraft (SPA) for the Royal Australian Air Force instead of leasing them as originally planned.

The 737 MAX 8 Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) have been configured with a business-class interior and fitted with an advanced communications suite, and will replace two 737-700 BBJs that have been in service since 2002.

The leases on the existing BBJs will soon expire after being extended several times, and the aircraft are due for an upgrade to their interiors and many of their systems.

The new aircraft are based on the MAX 8 airliner, and have been undergoing flight testing and have had their new cabins and communications suites fitted in Basel, Switzerland, in recent weeks.

It was announced in February 2022 that the National Australia Bank (NAB) had been awarded a $372 million contract to provide the Commonwealth with the two MAX 8s for an initial lease of 12 years, after government approval to acquire the new aircraft was given in December 2021.

However, The Australian reported on 20 May that the projected lease payments over the planned service life of the new aircraft had blown out by more than $175 million to $550 million, so a decision has reportedly been made to acquire the aircraft outright for about $450 million from unspent Defence funding from the 2023-24 budget year.

The new aircraft will be used for operational domestic and regional flights for senior political, vice-regal and military leaders. They will join three Dassault Falcon 7X aircraft that entered service in 2019 with the RAAF’s 34 Squadron at Canberra’s Fairbairn Defence Establishment.

The SPA fleet can also be augmented with one of the RAAF’s seven Airbus KC-30A multi-role tanker transports, which is fitted with a VIP interior for longer-range international missions, and some of the RAAF’s smaller Beech King Air 350 aircraft, which are mainly used for Mission Aircrew training.

air force VIP jet

The two new aircraft came off the Boeing production line in February 2023.

For the spotters, the two new aircraft came off the Boeing production line in February 2023 as manufacturer serial numbers (MSN) 67959/8532 and 67960/8610, and currently wear US registrations N786BJ and N787BJ while they undergo their flight testing and reconfiguration.

They have been painted in an attractive new but understated white, blue and red scheme, and will wear the Australian state registrations of A62-001 and A62-002 when they enter service.

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on PS News.

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