LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron will get his own plane for official visits similar to the US president's Air Force One by converting a military plane at a cost of around 10 million pounds, it was announced today.
A Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft normally used for air-to-air refuelling, Voyager A330, will be refitted to create Britain's own version of the 'Air Force One' used by the US President.
Ministers say the plane will save the taxpayer up to 775,000 pounds a year on the cost of Downing Street's flights because it will avoid the use of costly charter flights, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"As part of the government's defence review, we have been looking at ways to make better use of the RAF fleet to transport senior ministers and consequently deliver savings for taxpayers," a UK government spokesperson said.
"We have decided to adapt one of our existing Voyager aircraft so that, in addition to its primary air tanking role, it can transport Ministers and it will also be available for the royal family to use," the spokesperson said.
"The details of the new arrangements are expected to come at the UK government's strategic defence and security review on Monday. There is no definite timing for the plane to come into service but it could be as early as next year," the spokesperson added.
When he was British prime minister, Gordon Brown had cancelled plans drawn up by his predecessor, Tony Blair, to buy two private jets, which had been nicknamed "Blair Force One" in reference to the aircraft used to fly the US president.
"It's five years since David Cameron said he'd cut his travel costs by 25 per cent, so any attempt to reduce them is already long overdue. We won't know if the new prime ministerial plane is cheaper than charter flights until he starts using it and No 10 reveals the cost," Shadow Cabinet Office minister Louise Haigh said.
"But, given that the last set of spending figures from his own department were meant to be published 15 months ago, it could be years before we find out," Haigh said.
At present Cameron and senior ministers use Queen's Flight, known as 32 Royal Squadron, for short haul flights and charter commercial flights for long haul trips.
The cost of the latter can be excessive because they are often arranged at short notice.