The president of the United States may get a new Air Force One jetliner — that is, whoever’s president after the 2020 elections.
The Pentagon started a program yesterday to develop and buy replacement presidential aircraft for use a decade from now. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall authorized the Air Force to establish an office for the replacement program, which includes new Marine One helicopters available for use no earlier than 2020.
The first of two current VC-25A Boeing 747-200B aircraft that serve as Air Force One entered service transporting presidential parties in September 1990. The aircraft are expected to have 30-year service lives, the Air Force said.
The obvious front-runner for a new AF1 is the Boeing 747-800. Of course, the DoD procurement system is so screwed up, instead of just buying a couple, they’ll spend a ton of money setting up a competition, in which Airbus is the only conceivable competitor, then get embroiled in litigation for a decade or two.
Having said that, the challenge with AF1 isn’t so much the airframe or the interior, but all the communication goodies that get stuffed inside.
On the Marine One side of the competition, there’s a lot more room for competition. The outrageous VH-71 program was a case where neither the Navy nor the White House would fix the program and start building. Requirements were added again and again. Gold plating ran amok, as Obama correctly noted. Does an aircraft the President will only ride for 30-60 minutes actually need a galley? Dude, a sammich and a thermos of coffee oughta do it.