Official state cars are vehicles used by governments to transport their officials or state heads or members of government or even visiting dignitaries. Some governments like the United states of America, Russia, United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, France etc. bring their own official state cars to wherever their heads are known to travel for official purposes. State cars often serve as the automotive symbol for a head of state and their country. Criteria for qualification as state car include adequate safety from external harm, security features and the capability and road presence of an all important transport vehicle. Common preferences include limousines, SUVs or Premium sedans.
Because these cars carry important and “at risk” passengers, they are expected to feature state of the art safety and security parameters. They are rebuilt with body armour plates underneath the exterior panels so as to appear as regular passenger cars from the outside but capable of withstanding gunfire and explosive attacks, generally by manufacturers, or in some cases after market specialists. The drivers of these cars are mostly trained personnel or ranking officers with military or law enforcement backgrounds.
Likewise, the Indian Special Protection Group – SPG is the body responsible for providing security to the Prime Minister of our country and his immediate family wherever they be in the world. It was founded in 1988 as an act of the Indian Parliament, and is the body whose responsibility is the Prime Ministerial Motorcade.
Our current Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi‘s motorcade is formed by a fleet of premium and secured vehicles that include three armoured BMW 760 Li special security sedans, three to four armoured long wheelbase Range Rovers or sometimes eight to ten BMW X5s, half a dozen Toyota Fortuners and atleast two Mercedes Benz Sprinter ambulances.
A popular choice of security teams across many countries, the BMW 7 series 760 Li Security Edition holds the reputation of being one of the safest vehicles, and is built to protect its passengers from anything ranging from assault rifle bullets to rocket propelled grenades. The wheels are twenty inch thick alloys dressed in run flat tyres that can allow the car to be driven upto speeds of sixty to eighty kilometres an hour even when riddled with bullets. All windows are made from inch thick polycarbonate glass that shatters upon impact but does not break. The petrol tank is capable of sealing itself upon attack to prevent fuel caused explosions, and the cabin has its own oxygen supply incase of a gas attack.
In his first term as the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi was driven around in the BMW 7 series. However, the second term saw him upgrade to the Range Rover – in sync with the powerful and outgoing image he has established as the leader of our country. Never one to shy away from the camera, the PM prefers to sit in the front seat when being driven around and the fact that an SUV has better quality visibility than a low tucked sedan makes the Range Rover a better choice.
Up until earlier the SPG motorcade had a 2010 Range Rover HSE, which came as a top spec variant, with a five litre V8 engine that made somewhere around 375 bhp.
The new SUV assigned to PM Modi is an armoured version of the exact same 2010 Range Rover High security edition with a Jaguar sourced Supercharged five litre V8 generating over 500 Nm of torque. Power transmission to the wheels is handled by an eight speed automatic gearbox with a four wheel drive system. The top speed of the car is limited to under 220 km per hour.
No official reasons have been stated for the upgrade, and the SPG takes great care in maintaining zero flexibility where the safety of our Prime Minister is concerned. The PM is counselled by the SPG regarding transportation choice.
In addition to his impressive motorcade, our globe-trotting PM also has at his disposal a boeing 747-700 owned and maintained by Air India. Called the Air India One, the boeing is our PM’s official jet for international tours. It also has other names like the AI-1, or the AIC001, which is the call sign for any aircraft flying the Indian Prime Minister or President. The AI-1 is equipped with plenty of safety and protection features like radar warning receivers, missile detectors, and advanced counter measures. The electronics on board are shielded to protect them from electromagnetic pulse (emp) from a nuclear blast or pulse cannon attacks. The plane is also equipped with chaff and flares to deflect guided or heat seeking missiles.
It has however lived a full life – having served a number of Indian Prime Ministers in the period and is now being considered for replacement by the Indian Air-force with the option of a better Boeing 777 – 300 ER.