Boeing [BA] has reached a $3.9 billion agreement with the White House to develop and build two new aircraft to replace the Air Force One presidential jets.
The informal deal includes an engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract, which has not yet been awarded. It also covers efforts already under contract for the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program, such as initial design work and the purchase of two commercial Boeing 747-8s.
The agreement includes items unique to Air Force One, such as advanced communications gear, internal and external stairs, large food-preparation galleys, and structural changes designed to protect and sustain the president and others on board for long periods of time, a Boeing official said Feb. 27.
“Boeing is proud to build the next generation of Air Force One, providing American presidents with a flying White House at outstanding value to taxpayers,” the company said in a statement.
The White House asserted that the agreement, negotiated by President Donald Trump, represents a $1.4 billion savings from the program’s original cost estimate of more than $5 billion. But Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group, questioned that claim.
“This is a $4 billion program,” Aboulafia said. “There is no evidence that it had gone higher than that. This appears to be a completely notional savings based on nothing concrete.”
The existing planes, also known as VC-25As, are modified 747-200s that have been in service since the early 1990s. They have experienced growing problems with parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance, the Air Force has said.
In August, the Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for an undisclosed amount to buy two four-engine, wide-body 747-8s for the PAR program. And in September, the Air Force awarded Boeing a nearly $600 million contract to begin designing the new Air Force One (Defense Daily, Sept. 13, 2017).
The Air Force has said that it plans to award the EMD contract this summer, conduct a preliminary design review this fall, begin aircraft modifications in 2019 and have the new jets ready for presidential use in 2024. The new planes will be called VC-25Bs.