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The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday that on Tuesday it awarded Boeing a $600 million contract to design two new aircraft for the President’s Air Force One fleet. Both planes will be 747-8 models; they will replace a pair of aging VC-25A (747-200B) aircraft. President Obama ordered the replacement during his second term, according to LiveScience.com.
The Air Force expects the new planes to be operational by 2024.
The VC-25As have been in use since 1990, and have carried five different presidents.
The Air Force agreed to purchase the replacement planes from Boeing in early August. The la Times quotes a Boeing spokeswoman as saying at the time that the company sold the planes to the Air Force “at a substantial discount from the company’s existing inventory.”
“Following the award of the contract to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft, this [i.e. Tuesday’s] contract award is the next major step forward toward ensuring an overall affordable program,” said Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson, Presidential Airlift Recapitalization program executive officer.
Under the contract, Boeing will “complete the initial design of the future Air Force One,” according to the Air Force’s statement.” The design will need to meet “presidential airlift mission requirements,” and the cost of the contract cannot exceed a ceiling President Trump will define.
According to the Times, Trump said via Twitter in December that the then-$4-billion budget for the design and implementation of the new Air Force One aircraft was “out of control.” In January, Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered a review of the Air Force One budget.
The Air Force has asked Boeing to incorporate the following elements into the design: “a mission communication system, electrical power upgrades, a medical facility, an executive interior, a self-defense system and autonomous ground operations capabilities.”
The current contract covers only the design of the Presidential planes. The Air Force says it is working with Boeing on a follow-up contract, which will govern additional design efforts, as well as the modification, testing and delivery of the aircraft. The military expects to award that contract in Summer 2018.
The 747-8 models feature numerous upgrades over the 747-200Bs the President uses now, Boeing says. The new planes boast a range of 7730 nautical miles (8895.53 miles), meaning they can fly from Washington D.C. to Hong Kong without refueling. The 747-200Bs had a range of 6735 nautical miles (7750.5 miles)—roughly the distance from D.C. to Tokyo.
The new planes also emit 16 tons less CO2 than the current models.
The current planes cruise at a speed of .84 Mach (644.5 mph)—the new ones do so at .855 Mach (656 mph). Mach One, the speed of sound, is 767.269 mph.
The new planes are six yards longer than their predecessors from head-to-tail and almost 29 feet longer in terms of wingspan.
They can support 987,000 pounds at takeoff; 154,000 (18.5 percent) more than their predecessors.
That last attribute is important given that today’s Air Force One includes a conference/dining room, two offices (one of which converts into a medical facility), and two galleys (kitchens) that can accommodate 100 guests.
The new Air Force One will be the seventh Boeing has designed since 1942.
The company routinely partners with the U.S. military to develop weapons and other defense implements. In late August, the Air Force announced that it had awarded Boeing, as well as Northrop Grumman, contracts to design new, land-based, nuclear ICBMs. The Air Force will likely choose the better of the two designs, or take elements from both.
Boeing’s defense operations represent a significant portion of its revenue. In 2016, the company generated over $12.5 billion through the sale of military aircraft. In 2015, the figure was $13.4 billion.
By comparison, Boeing generated over $65 billion through the sale of commercial planes in 2016 and more than $66 billion a year earlier.
So, in 2016, 16 percent of the revenue Boeing generated through the sale of commercial and military aircraft came from sales of the latter. In 2015, that figure was marginally higher.
At the market’s close Thursday, Boeing stock was up more than 3 percent since Wednesday morning.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons