Get Ready for a New Air Force One

Yup, the Air Force is moving to buy a brand new pair of big jets for the president. Well, whomever is president at the end of the decade, anyway.

We mentioned (tweeted) this last September when Air Force Secretary Michael Donley mentioned that the service will look at buying a new presidential transport in the next decade. The Air Force has been looking to do this for a while now, but in light of numerous acquisition priorities and difficulties it faced with them (think the CSAR-X, KC-X and next-gen bomber. Oh, don’t forget the Marines’ cancelled VXX presidential helo program.) in the last decade, the effort never really got of the ground.

Apparently, the service outlines its intent to buy two new airliters to replace the iconic Boeing 747-based VC-25s that began carrying the president in 1990 and 1991. Remember, their Boeing 707 predecessors served from the early 1960s until the 1990 as the president’s airplane, so this timeframe for replacement makes sense. One of the biggest reasons for replacing the current VC-25s is their lack of power compared to newer versions of the 747 (c’mon, you know the next Air Force One is going to be made in the USA).

From Defense News:

Current and former military sources have said power demands are straining the two quad-engine jetliners due to the aircraft’s extensive communications equipment and other systems. Newer Boeing aircraft feature engines with thousands of pounds of more thrust than those on the current Air Force One aircraft.

The inclusion of a VC-25 replacement in the aviation plan comes at an interesting time, since recapitalization of Air Force One is typically directed by a president in a second term.

George W. Bush’s administration had tried to get the ball rolling on Air Force One and Marine One helicopter recapitalization before the end of his second term in the White House.

Barack Obama is up for re-election in November and, particularly during recent government bailouts of shaky corporations, has been highly critical of executive use of corporate jets.

Shortly after Obama took office in 2009, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled the helicopter effort following a severe spike in costs attributed to the piling on of White House-mandated requirements.

The Marine One replacement effort has been restarted though a program called V-XX, but is not supposed to begin operating until 2023, according to the 30-year aviation plan.

Following Obama’s harsh corporate jets comments, the Air Force put the VC-25 recapitalization plan on hiatus, with internal plans of replacing the current aircraft later this decade, according to the current and former military sources.

Since then, the service has been conducting low-level research and development of Air Force One-type systems, without identifying a specific airframe, these sources said.

Boeing has expressed interest in pitching its new, larger 747-8 as an Air Force One replacement. In September 2011, EADS North America said a VC-25 replacement did not fit its U.S. business model.

Since Boeing will likely be the only bidder in the competition, the Air Force has considered requesting bids for the integration work of sophisticated communications equipment.

60 Comments on "Get Ready for a New Air Force One"

  1. A real turning point. Unless we buy a A380 for the first time in history the Present will fly not in the biggest and best jet in the world but second class. Says a lot.

  2. If thrust & power is the issue why not just replace the engines

  3. More power….. ?? Just go to the Solyndra bankruptcy auction and get a plane load of solar panels and glue them onto the wings. I am sure that you could run one more teleprompter.

  4. It's only money; tax payer money at that.

    And, when Liberal Democrats fly they leave no carbon footprint. Just ask Al Gore.

  5. Does the author confuse engine power (thrust) with engine power (electrical)? I can't imagine cramming enough extra comms and VIP gear into a 747 to make it heavier than a similar freight model.

  6. How about converting a couple recently retired C-5s? I wonder if that would cost less with existing airframes….

  7. You don't necessarily want the largest aircraft. You ideally want your aircraft to be able to land at as many airfields (i.e. short runways) as possible. A380 is epic fail on this requirement. So having a good sized, but operationally flexible aircraft is the best solution. It doesn't do anybody any good if you have to fly in something else half the time because you're flying to a location where the nearest beast-compatible airfield is 500 miles away… I wonder if 777 might be better than a 747 on this account, although only having two engines probably hurts power generation, not to mention survivability.

  8. I'm wondering why a full on 747 is needed. If they have to have a new air-frame then why not a 767 or 787? Although Davebo's comment on redundancy is a good one.

  9. What the Prez needs is a Boeing X-48 should have plenty of space and good power to weight ratio. Or how about a converted B-1 . Then it would be the first Air force one to go super sonic. Just kidding. It makes sense why they would want a newer plane even if it the same model your talking about 20 years or so of technological improvements plus the com equipment going into it would be all state of the art.

  10. What if the Air Force were to convert a couple B-1 bombers, wouldn't that solve a few problems from the get go, such as electrical power generation, engine thrust and not to mention a few enhancements such as it could take off/land at short airfields, its already hardend against EMP from nuclear detonation, it can already do air to air re-fueling, it is much more agile than any civilian airliner and it would look so cool…

  11. 787.

    Put POTUS on the 787.

    The 787 is a paradigm shift.

    It's the most innovative airliner out there, has the longest range, can land everywhere, and has plenty enough room. If Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan could work and survive on a 707, our next presidents can do with a much larger 787.

    The 787 makes the statement that the US is returning to the world stage, as a technological leader, as an environmentally conscious and concerned nation, and it dispels the bloated and over-entitled image of the United States conveyed by the 747 Jumbo Jet.

    Finally, the 787 is the symbol of a complex and risky international collaborative effort, successfully managed led by a world-class US OEM.

    The 787 is a great symbol of American prowess, the result of leadership and collaborative spirit ,and the White House gains by this association.

  12. I third the nomination for a retrofit B-1 B. More bang for the TaxPayers Buck! (ie Made in the USA!)

  13. Matt Holzmann | April 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    A-380's suck. Having flown them a number of times now, I find the flaws to outweigh the spaciousness. Those wing root issues are something else as well.

    From a poorly designed head to poor ventilation, to weird wiring it's just another Scarebus.

    The president travels with a large entourage, and having been aboard the old 707 version at the Reagan Library, there wasn't a lot of room on that plane.

    The new 747's are pretty efficient and getting better all the time.

  14. glen whitten | April 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

    I could make an airplane with perhaps 5 times as much lift as our present planes.When I write to anyone in Washington they do not even acknowledge my letters. The White House writes that if they worked with me it would show partiality although of the 40 Billion (est) people in the history of the earth I am the only one that understands lift. My planes would be a LOT SAFER.Most University Engineers think they understand lift but ask them to explain how a 1.25 ounce bird can fly 6000 miles in 3 days or across the Gulf of Mexico without stopping. (Approximately 800 miles
    Dr Glen Whitten pobox477 londonderry VT 05148

  15. glen whitten | April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |

    See my previous comment. My plane could also carry heavier loads or use smaller or less jets. And use less fuel

  16. 787 for domestic and 747-8 for over seas flights. A no brainer.

  17. RunningBear | April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |


    C-5P(residential), upgrading 2 or 3 mothballed C-5As would be a good return on our taxpaying investment. Boeing would cringe on the C-5s but may offer a pair of 747-8s as new builds. The B-787 would be the classy approach, with the return to something similar to the ole' 707s (less eggs in one basket??).

  18. Tribulationtime | April 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

    Eureka!! We know now why they were testing the X-37. If we talk about luxury the King Fahd wins fairly. The interesting for me is if they are thinking in a Doomsday plane of only newer aircrafts. In the first case it would be funny to know what kind of tech marvels they want put in.

  19. While yes the President needs a safe C4 capable plane. the timing is bad. Most DoD programs are on there death bead the USAF need to replace the Falcon and upgraded Raptors and Eagles badly and now they have to speed Billions for a new VC-747. Just have to wait on that the Navy has to ditch the Hornet alot more since they are falling out of the air like rocks.

  20. Replace the four E-4's (edit: And the E-8 Mercury?) at the same time as both VC-25's. Both aircraft have similar missions, and would likely face the same issues if it comes down to issues relating to the next generation of communications gear.

  21. Make the new one VTOL!

  22. Thank you Mr.Cain I would also like to add that it would be much more faster than any civilian airliner also.

  23. FormerDirtDart | April 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm |

    The only realistic replacement aircraft are the 747-8i and 777-300. Comparatively, the 787 is a much smaller.

  24. It'll be made in China like all our military software is anyway. Do we get one for Queen Pelosi too?

  25. I recomendthe hardy C-130!

  26. Oh please. We are in a financial and budget crisis globally. I am retired Air Force and I am aware of how well we keep our maintenance and operating equipment in top order. To me, if there is no problem with the airframe itself and since our technological advances continues to get better, we should look into upgrading the existing hardware and software after evaluating how much more life we could squeeze out of what we currently have which works and save the tax payers $ we don’t need to spend at this time.

  27. They should just stick pillars on a C-5, paint it white, astroturf the roof, and they'll never have to leave!

  28. Ok Folks…
    Here's the scoop……
    The President of the United States will only fly in the Primary AF1 with 4 engines per the Secret Service….
    If he has to fly short distances into smaller airports he will fly a B-757 or G-550….
    We ALL know that the a/c the President flys in is AF1 to to the Controllers….
    The ONLY new a/c therefore is gonna be the B-747-8…
    NOTHING else will fit the bill….
    Since the Election is 7 months away there is NO way an announcement is forthcoming…..
    Forget the BS about A-380….
    Ain't happening….
    The worst part is the NEW AF 1 is gonna take 5 years or more to build…and I'll guarantee it WILL be over budget as the Secreat Service and WH Military Office add's EVERYTHING AND the Kitcehn sink….

  29. EADS Airbus declined to participate in the AF1 competition in early 2009 as a business decision. Boeing's 787 is going to be the only contender.

    I guess Lockheed Martin could resurrect the idea of a civilian C-5 Galaxy for the competition? :)

  30. The Wright Brothers are an example of entrepreneurship in aerospace without meddling capitalists. Then there's SpaceX today…but you need money. Lots of it.

  31. If the President really needs all that space and an aircraft that can land and take off from nearly anywhere. Why not use a C-17. It is one of the best built aircraft around. I can haul vehicles, and comm gear to make any president proud. Plus they are not that loud

  32. how about doing a Virgin Galactic style where the POTUS flies the Spaceship One arriving anywhere in the world less than 2 hours and the rest fly Spaceship Two to follow. No missile on earth can catch Space One so no need to worry about potential danger.

  33. A real reason to expediate the purchase of a new VC37 fleet is probably the excessive use by Michael Obama and her kids for vacation use.
    President Bush and family spent most weekends at Camp David, a short drive/helo ride from White House. Obama's don't like living in the sticks. They want Royal treatment and plush surroundings.
    Obama has used Camp David only a few times since taking office. He doesn't thjink it's fancy enough for his Socialist/Islamic friends

  34. L Berry….
    The Pres doesn' t DRIVE ANYWHERE…..
    He RIDES in SUV's….
    The First Lady travel's in G-550's…..
    Check yourself

  35. L Berry…. is dropping on the President who is protected by the Secret Service and gets the security bubble that goes with the job…..
    The guy often complains about the lack of a regular life…..
    But that's the way it is….
    Enough with the name calling….
    He's the President…..
    Live with it….

  36. There is only one option: Boeing 787

  37. anantoniusbauwens | April 14, 2012 at 8:11 am |

    Since everything is double like decoys etc,will there be two planes built? As we often see how we transport our President I wonder if wed build two??

  38. Marlin Hauer | April 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

    The best aircraft the president could have is an antiradar painted C-130 with 4 turbo prop engines that get alot more mpg than jets. Then include a couple of smaller jet engines for really moving out, if need be. Along with the optional Jato rockets, there would not be a place the Pres could not land or take off.!

  39. All that plane and so few pasengers for it's size. Scratch scratch. What a waste of tax payers money. And we're asked to downsize?

  40. Enough with the serious and practical opinions. Lets dust off some of the hot rods from the past. XB70 comes to mind. Gotta be an opportunity to take her around the block every once and a while.

  41. mission would be better served if AF1 was NOT made in America.

    Ideally its based on the most common modern foreign built airframe…thus making visual digital camouflage practical. Hide in the crowd of planes crossing the skies or landing at busy international airports.

    Makes hiring and flying in decoys to trip up assassination teams easier.

  42. Well maybe the days of free rides to gain personal political support for President should end. That is really taxpayers footing his advanced campaign. Reporters can easier afford the business expense to get to destination.

    Also modern Internet, satellite video systems and compact lower power computers have greatly REDUCED the need for both SUPPORT staff onboard and equipment space and power needs.

    Overseas additional security staff really would be served better by landing first in another plane – probably a modularized unit carried on military plane designed to land similar military HQ staff and guard.

    Smaller plane

  43. C5-tired airframe; B787 not enuff engines; A300 or anything by EADS-too scary-ctl info all in a foreign language; B1-no room; the new B747-8 (?) seems to be ideal. If they rebuilt the BUFF from the inside out this new 747 appears to be it. At least it won't be rebuilt during this admin and, after all, anything with an improvement period of 20 to 30 years, has to show a great deal of improvement. Incidentally, riding on any plane doesn't show what it would be like as a Presidential ride. Civilian a/c don't qualify as a VIP private ride.

  44. YeahISaidItSoWhat? | April 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

    What's the point in all the strong opinions?? Each is just that…an opinion. Outside of applying the democratic process and giving a voice to contest other opinions (and show the lack of spell check in many cases) , the words mean absolutely nothing in terms of calling the shots. Nobody here, including me, is going to be able to influence a thing about the President's jet. It's cool to speak on it, but some are acting as if they will be the one to decide what's what. Sorry to bust your bubble, but it ain't gonna happen as you dictate@

  45. Gordon Wells SMS Ret | April 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm |

    The Idea of up grading the Engine for power and efficiency is the way to go. The E 4 should have the same upgrade. This could be done a lot faster and we all can enjoy the benefits.

  46. I recommend two items for he present Prez…..A Sopwith Camel for air travel and space underwear (for someone who thinks his ass is out of this world).

  47. Hell just retire the entire fleet and if the president thinks he needs to travel charter what he thinks he needs. The Chinese did it he is no better that any body else. And that hog of a wife fly commercial on her dime not ours actually the both should be flying on there dime all the time not ours. No exceptions. And the dog should fly on the same plane as meathead and familly.

  48. Save $$$$$ Reduce the size of the entourage that is superflous to needs (vs wants) and go with an existing executive jet. We don't have to have the biggest, most expensive and luxurious when efficent and effective will more than serve the needs. Make the entourage, that consist of mostly newsmen, fly on their own dime, not ours!

  49. Next thing you will hear is the GOVERNMENT will cut off MEDICARE and MILITARY RETIREMENT BENEFITS to pay for the cost so OBAMA can spent all of his time in AIR FORCE 1.

  50. Why not reduce the amount of electrical equipment. the President doesn't need to carry the whole damn White house with him!

  51. If the next AF 1 were a C-5 (not likely) it could carry most of the support crap that goes along with every trip

  52. Steve Shultz | April 21, 2012 at 10:33 am |

    I'd like to see the airframe hours and cycles for the current two AF1s and compare them with similar commercial 747s. I bet the current AF1s have lots of service life left, at most they could use a re-engine. This is the same idea that's been used on the KC-135s that are still flying at 50 years old (built 56-64).

  53. For continental travel they shouldn't being flying such a monster. I'm sure a smaller liner could be hardened and have all the communication gear needed. Make the media pay their own way to the locations.

  54. Maybe we can start raising funds by selling the buses that we bought?

  55. It will be the 748. You need four engines for survivability and electrical power generation. The current VC-25 has generators on all the engines where as most commercial 742's only have two or three. Also you want to have serviceability, and the world wide network of parts for the 747 series will assure that. By the time the new aircraft enter service, the 748 network will be well established. You would not use a B-1 airframe, it is too small and has a limited parts network, as well as having high time on the frames. The last B-1B was produced in 1988 by Rockwell. The C-5 was last produced in 1989. The Galaxy is not practical for similar reasons, as well as the physical space required just to park the thing. I doubt many here have been next to one here, I you had you would know just how ludicrous that idea is.

    It will be a 747-8i. It is the only plane that fits the role.

  56. coiffeur paris | March 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm |

    I read this post completely about the comparison of

    latest and previous technologies, it’s amazing article.

  57. How much does it cost to keep the Air Force Ones sitting still at ready? All the info I see is cost of flying. The Air Force One fleet has to be ready for the president at all times. This is bound to be expensive. The additional cost of flying above the parked cost might not be as enormous as it is being made to appear.

  58. How about a C-17 Air Force One? Or, for a really fancy ride, a B2 stealth Air Force One!

  59. Okinawa911 | July 23, 2014 at 8:26 am |

    Air Bus Air Force One! (ABAFO)
    Air Force One Air Bus! (AFOAB)

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