A former Qantas Boeing 767 is now Israel's Air Force One

An old Qantas Boeing 767 gets a new lease of life as the Israeli government's flagship.

By David Flynn, October 8 2020
A former Qantas Boeing 767 is now Israel's Air Force One

When Qantas retired its last Boeing 767 in December 2014, most members of the once 41-strong fleet – which spearheaded the airline's Asian expansion – were sold for scrap or made their way to Canada's WestJet.

But one of the twin-engine twin-aisle jets faces a far more prestigious future, as the Israeli version of Air Force One.

After 13 years of flying with Qantas, this particular Boeing 767-300ER will now be used by Israeli's prime minister and president for official visits overseas, and after several years of extensive customisation by Israel Aerospace Industries it's expected to take wing later this month.

In place of Qantas' red-and-white livery is a blue and white colour scheme, while the tail's iconic flying kangaroo has been replaced by a Star of David.

And while the aircraft's official designation is 4X-ISR – the last three letters representing the State of Israel – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given it a far more prosaic name of of Knaf Zion, or 'Wing of Zion'.

The estimated $280 million purchase and upgrade has seen the Red Roo's 254 seats replaced by a suitably VIP configuration, with a private bedroom, kitchen and meeting room where business class used to be.

This is followed by seating for official government staff and members of the media.

Something which the original Qantas Boeing 767 definitely didn't have is the Sky Shield missile defense system, which uses infra-red sensors to detect shoulder-launched missiles fired from the ground. When a missile is detected, the system generates a laser beam to deflect it away from the aircraft.

However, the Wing of Zion is not without controversy: in common with most government projects, it's come in late and over budget, and many have critcised the choice of an ageing Boeing 767 over the newer and more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner, especially as state airline El Al – which was to have supplied the pilots – has since removed all of its own Boeing 767s from service.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

“However, the Wing of Zion is not without controversy: in common with most government projects, it's come in late and over budget, and many have critcised the choice of an ageing Boeing 767 over the newer and more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner, especially as state airline El Al – which was to have supplied the pilots – has since removed all of its own Boeing 767s from service.”


Agree with that surprise about the choice of an old airframe, unless it had more to do with the sensors and indirect trackers like SDU bursts and ELT which we all learnt from the investigation of MH370 flight path, but I would have thought it wouldn’t be hard to disable them if required. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 808

I wonder if SkyShield is the reason winglets haven't been fitted.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

That’s an idea. Maybe it’s more about how the plane handle if a near miss explosion or small arm damages one or both winglets 

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 144

I'd suggest Wings of Zion is a far less prosaic name than 4X-ISR...

Given the recent warming of relations with some of its Gulf neighbours, let's hope we might even see this aircraft in some unexpected airports around the Middle East.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 403

With a rego like 4X, it should be Queensland's Air Force One!

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 107

Good pick up!

The 787 battery fires was still fresh in memory back in 2014 so it would be a very brave decision to chose the air frame for ferrying the Head of state.

An Airbus would be out of question if the Israeli Prime Minister keen for a warm reception in Washington.

Beside the tried and true 767, there was limited choice for a twin jet, twin aisles for the purpose.

Ever noted how most Heads of state travel on quite ancient air frames?


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