JERUSALEM, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Israel has decided that the time has come to follow America's lead and provide its dignitaries with an aircraft specially-designated for state missions.
The decision comes after decades of reliance on chartered El-Al flights and making due with aircraft that lack the necessary electronic and safety hardware, and prestige befitting a head of state.
The Israeli Finance Ministry has issued a tender asking commercial airlines to submit offers for the Jewish state's version of Air Force One, the official call sign of the Boeing aircraft that transports the U.S. President, local daily Yediot Aharonoth reported on Sunday.
Air Force One has become a symbol of the American presidency and power, and the aircraft are among the most famous and most photographed in the world.
But, like his predecessors, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived for the direct talks summit in Washington last Wednesday aboard a Boeing that was hastily reconfigured to accommodate a considerable entourage of officials, advisors, security personnel and accompanying journalists.
Considerable financial costs have traditionally been cited as the main reason for not maintaining an aircraft exclusively designated to ferry Israeli prime ministers and presidents on official state visits abroad.
The tender for the new plane calls for offering one of three alternatives -- an aircraft exclusively designated for VIP transport with around-the-clock availability; an aircraft that will continue commercial flights but be available for state use at a moment's notice; or a long-term lease with an airline that will configure one of its fleet for state use within 72 hours.
Experts quoted in the report estimate the Israeli Prime Minister's Office will eventually choose to sign a contract for a Boeing 767 that will continue to fly regular commercial flights and be converted for state use on short notice. It will also have to offer high availability over the next 15 years and be able to fly at least 10,000 km without having to land for refueling.
While the features of the two Boeing 747s that fly U.S. President Barack Obama around the globe remain mostly confidential, it is known that they have mid-air refueling capabilities and are equipped with the most advanced encrypted communication systems that enable an American president to communicate with his political leadership and military chiefs in time of war.
But while the Israeli Air Force One is slated to be more modest in comparison, it will feature rooms built into modular platforms, and connectable in segments for easy reconfiguration, sporting amenities enabling Israeli leaders to arrive fresh and relaxed for hard-bargaining.
According to the report, future Israeli premiers will enjoy a personal suite including an en suite bathroom and shower. Additional features will include a business suite for senior officials, a multi-media conference room, encrypted satellite communication gear, an infirmary and special seating for aides and body guards, not to mention countermeasures against shoulder-fired missiles.