The VC-25B program to build the nation’s next Air Force One planes recently passed its critical design review even as a large part of the Air Force’s acquisition workforce is out of the office during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service completed the CDR for the program, which will replace the legacy VC-25A aircraft, said Will Roper, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in an April 16 media teleconference. The classified elements of the review must still be done in person, but a significant portion of it was completed virtually, he added.
“I don’t know if it makes any sense to do CDRs, at least at an unclassified level, outside of tools like this,” he said, adding that more programs are expected to pivot toward completing reviews in virtual settings. “We’re working really hard to provide the same capabilities at the secret level.”
The service has contracted Boeing [BA] to modify two 747 aircraft to become the next Air Force One aircraft to transport the U.S. president beginning in around 2024. The VC-25Bs will include upgrades such as autonomous ground operations capabilities, specialized communications systems, more electrical power and a medical facility. Boeing began work in February on the new aircraft in the company’s facility in San Antonio, Texas. While the 2018 contract award was for $3.9 billion, Defense One reported Thursday that the total cost including new hangars, support equipment, training and other extras is expected to be closer to $5.3 billion.
Roper said the VC-25B program team used an application that allowed for the briefer to share PowerPoint slides and for participants to submit questions and feedback over chat. “It allows a greater level of productivity than a meeting itself,” he said.