Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, in coordination with Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, has determined the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One, Air Force officials announced on January 28.
«The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States», James said. «The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that), when fully missionized, 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».
Meeting a Presidential Mission
Analyses of the capability requirements conclude a four-engine, wide-body aircraft is required to meet the needs of the Air Force One mission. Market research determined there are two four-engine platforms that could meet the requirements; the 747-8 manufactured by Boeing in the state of Washington, and the A380 manufactured by Airbus in Toulouse, France.
The decision, made official through a Determinations and Findings document, authorizes the commercial aircraft purchase by other than full and open competition. This decision, in conjunction with the notification of the Air Force’s intent to award a sole-source contract to Boeing for the modification of the 747-8, allows discussions with Boeing that will likely lead to a contract for the aircraft platform as well as the modifications necessary to missionize the aircraft.
Acquisition Strategy, Risk Reduction Work Remains
«This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft», said Colonel Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program manager. «We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost».
The Air Force wants to own enough of the technical baseline to permit competition for sustainment throughout the aircraft’s planned 30-year life cycle, officials said. Competition can keep costs down, spur innovation and provide options.
«We are committed to incorporating competition for sub-systems of the missionized aircraft as much as practicable, and will participate substantively in any competitions led by the prime contractor», James said.
«The current fleet of VC-25 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 upgrade. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded. The Air Force provides the president with safe and reliable air transportation with high levels of security and communication capability as the alternate airborne White House», she added. «This platform will meet the requirements necessary to provide that level of service for future presidents».
The secretary made clear affordability will be a key element of the PAR program. «The program will use multiple strategies, such as the use of proven technologies and commercially certified equipment, to ensure the program is as affordable as possible while still meeting mission requirements», James said. «We will insist upon program affordability through cost conscious procurement practices».