The U.S. Air Force has awarded Boeing a contract for two commercial 747-8 aircraft that will be converted into presidential airlifters. These will replace the fleet of 747-200s that had served as presidential transports. The new planes are expected to begin flying in 2024.
“We’re glad to have reached an agreement to sell to the U.S. Air Force two new 747-8 commercial airplanes at a substantial discount from the company’s existing inventory to serve as the future Air Force One fleet,” Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson said in a statement. “The Air Force has taken advantage of a unique opportunity to get a great airplane at a great price for the American taxpayer.”
The service did not reveal the value of the award, but it was reportedly able to save a significant amount of money on the planes as it purchased aircraft that had already been manufactured, but never delivered, to Transaero, the bankrupt Russian airline.
The contract is a modification of a contract the service awarded to the defense giant in 2016 toanalyse options for reducing the risk of technical problems in the development of the new Air Force One fleet.
A follow-on contract will be awarded to Boeing for developing a preliminary design for the Air Force One modifications, according to a USAF statement.
Following modifications, the presidential aircraft replacement will begin flying in 2024.
It was in January that Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered an immediate review of the Air Force One recapitalization.
This followed US president Donald Trump’s complaint that Boeing's cost proposals were too high.
The new Air Force One fleet will have a series of upgrades, including a mission communications system, a medical facility, an executive interior, electrical power upgrades, a self-defence system and autonomous ground operations.