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Boeing Awarded Contract for Next Air Force One

The Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for risk reduction activities for the next Air Force One as part of the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program Jan. 29, according to a news release from the secretary of the Air Force public affairs office.

This first contract will cover definition of detailed requirements and design trade-offs in order to lower risk during the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase of the program. Additional modifications will be made to this contract, leading to the actual purchase of commercial 747-8 aircraft as well as the design, modification, and testing of the aircraft.

“The current fleet of VC-25A presidential aircraft has performed exceptionally well, a testament to the airmen who support, maintain and fly the aircraft. Yet it is time to replace them. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded.”

“This is the start of our contractual relationship with Boeing. It will allow Boeing to begin working on what will be the next Air Force One,” said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program manager. “This initial effort is about reducing risk, really understanding where the tough work will be, finding affordability opportunities, and getting the best value for the taxpayer, while continuing to meet the needs of our commander in chief.”

Like today’s VC-25 presidential aircraft, the future Air Force One will be based on Boeing’s venerable 747, albeit in this case the 21st century version of the jumbo jet.

Air Force One based 747-8

The future Air Force One will be based on the 747-8 aircraft. The 747-8 Intercontinental variant is shown here. Boeing photo by Ed Turner

“The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America at home and abroad,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said. “We will ensure the next Air Force One meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest.”

Both James and McCain stressed the importance of affordability. The Air Force also wants open competition for modifications and sustainment throughout the aircraft’s planned 30-year life cycle in order to keep costs down, spur innovation and provide technical options.

“We are focused on ensuring this program is affordable,” McCain said. “This contract gets us started on determining how to modify a 747-8 to become the next Air Force One, and finding opportunities for cost reduction through detailed requirements choices, competition of subsystems, and in the sustainment of the aircraft after it has been fielded.”

“The current fleet of VC-25A presidential aircraft has performed exceptionally well, a testament to the airmen who support, maintain and fly the aircraft,” James said. “Yet it is time to replace them. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded.”