USAF inserts plan for AF One replacement into future

The current Air Force One (all two of them) entered service in 1990 and 1991 and are based on the Boeing 747-200. The time appears nearing for a replacement.

Defense News reports that the USAF has added replacements in its future planning.

Given the long history of the Secret Service demanding more than two engines, a replacement would almost certainly be the Boeing 747-8I.

Here are a couple of links to the history of Air Force One here and here.

69 Comments on “USAF inserts plan for AF One replacement into future

  1. I guess many aircraft specific design items from the AF could be transferred to the 747-8, reducing costs.

    Other heads of state would park bigger aircraft next to the AF1, but that is not an issue, because this is looked at in a functional way.

    • So why even bring it up? (insert rolling-eyes smiley here…)

  2. There could be no other choice really. The US President/Air Force was never going to use the A380 and the 787 is probably too small. The 747-8I is perfect and she’ll look awesome too.

      • My thoughts entirely. If they don’t actually *need* something the physical size of a 747 then why not a 777? If they really could use the extra space then an A380 might be a better technical choice, even if not a politically acceptable one.

    • There is always the 747-8F platform. The stretched upper deck was available but not chosen in 1990.

      • But now the streched upper deck of the B-747-8I can be used for more systems. On the present VC-25, the upper deck is mostly used for the communications system, both secure and unsecure.

      • The two existing AF1 airplanes are 747-200B’s manufactured in 1987. They were delivered to the USAF in 1988 and 1989 but did not go into service until 1990 and 1991. By then the far-superior 747-400’s had entered airline service. In perfect 20-20 hindsight, maybe the USAF should have waited a few years, but at the time the two AF1’s were ordered in the mid-1980’s, perhaps the Air Force did not want to be an early customer for what was to be a very different 747 with all-new systems and avionics.

        The stretched upper deck 747-300 would not have been suitable. It weighed about 8,000 lbs more than the 747-200B but had the same MTOW of 833,000 lbs so it could not fly as far. That could have been one reason why Boeing only sold eighty-one of them before the 747-400 replaced the -200’s and -300’s. (Boeing modified some of KLM’s 747-200’s to -300’s in what may have been the biggest money-losing Boeing mod program of all time)

        The 747-8F is not a short upper deck 747-8I without windows; it has a completely different fuselage structure, floor, and lower lobe. Don’t even think about the non-recurring cost to put a 747-8F upper deck on a 747-8I. If the next AF1’s are to be 747’s, they will be 747-8I’s.

        • When the two VC-25s were designed they incorproated some of the -300 and -400 features. I believe they have the -300 landing gear, and the -400 engines and avionics. They also have features that are unique only to the VC-25, like lower cargo doos on both sides of the airplane, and duel APUs.

      • The -200 and -300 were both limited to 833,000 lbs max takeoff weight, 836,000 lbs max taxi weight, so they have identical landing gear. The VC-25’s have three-person flight decks with two pilots and a flight engineer. The USAF added a navigator’s station. They use electronic pilot displays (EADI and EHSI similar to the 767), but they do not have the 747-400’s two-person flight deck with six CRT’s. The engines are CF6-80C2B1’s with a takeoff static thrust rating of 55,980 lbs at sea level., which became available on the 747-200 in the mid-1980’s. They are similar to but not the same as the 747-400’s CF6-80C2B1F engines rated at 57,160 lbs. sea level static thrust.

      • Which airlines took delivery of the -200 or -300 with the CF6-80 series engines?

      • By the time the CF-6-80C2B1 became available in the mid 1980’s, most 747 operators had finished buying the Classics and were getting ready for 747-400 service which began in 1989. Based on info listed in the “planespotters” data base, the VC-25’s seem to be the only 747-200’s with these engines; 747-300 customers included Air India (two airplanes), Thai (two) and Varig (five).

      • Thanks for that info. It looks like once 747-400 deliveries started, Boeing built five passenger classics, a 200B, an SP, a 300M, and the two VC-25s.

  3. Parking which bigger aircraft? How many VIP A380s has Airbus sold?

    Hmm, add the numbers, carry the one… Oh yeah, none.

    And the 747-8i? Nine and counting.

    • Don’t really want to be pedantic but this “comment” begs for correction. One A380 Vip aircraft has been sold.
      The 747-8 still holds, and will probably continue, to hold that advantage.

      Finding someone to customize such a large aircraft is not very easy. Way too many resources are sucked up into such a venture.

  4. keesje :
    I guess many aircraft specific design items from the AF could be transferred to the 747-8, reducing costs.
    Other heads of state would park bigger aircraft next to the AF1, but that is not an issue, because this is looked at in a functional way.

    Which head of state has ordered, is about to order, is considering ordering, or can afford a Presidential A-380?

    On the engines on the current VC-25A, they are GE CF-6-80C2B1, each producing more than 56,000 lbs of thrust. The current engines on the B-747-8I are the GEnx-2B67 and each produces more than 10,000 lbs more thrust at 66,700 lbs. But they also get better ‘gas milage’. I would guess a new B-747-8I Air Force-1 (VC-47A?) would also be heavier and have a better and larger communications suit, along with better self defense packages than the current VC-25A. I do hope the USAF finally changes the Kennedy Era livery with something that stands out just as much, but is more modern.

  5. I seem to remember that an RFP or PRFP when out last year on this for three aircraft and AIRBUS said no bid or am I wrong?

    • Not wrong. Airbus said back then that they wouldn’t bid. That doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. That was then, this is now.

  6. One of the emirates come to mind, that ordered the A380 that is, (but can’t remember which one). Not sure that would be a head-of-state a/c, it might have been a ‘private’ a/c… but then I am never sure where private ends and state begins in those countries…

    • Yes, that A-380 (MSN-2?) will be a private VIP jet. But I will also point out (as far as I know) the 9 B-747-8BBJ/VIPs ordered are also private VIP jets, and a few could be going to the middle east, too.

      I don’t know about the rest of the world, but when they visit the US the Arab VIP jets are treated as very important visitors, but not as a state aircraft.

  7. The VC-25s may be getting old but certainly not used. I wonder how many cycles are on these.
    While the 777-9 would be the intelligent answer, the 747-8 will look more prestigious and they may get a bargain price for the airframe (but will double pay on the mods :))

    • Actually, the VC-25s are not real old as far as flying hours and cycles go. My guess is they have less than 6000 hours and around 1500 cycles each. They are well taken care of. The two VC-25s costs less than $500M when they entered service in 1991. My guess is each new AF-1 will cost north of $850M after all the equipment is installed. Just look at the costs that skyrocketed with the VH-71s when the WH and SS kept adding things. They would have costs about $500M each had we bought them.

    • don’t forget the “more than 2” engine reqm’t.
      mebbe they could have a look at some of the Dassualt tri-jets

  8. An Emirates one, a Saudi one and who knows in the future, the Chinese, India, Japanese? EU president? France? Putin? Brazil ? And a second and third, accompaning freighters, a fighters squad and tankers to fly along, dozens of short haired sunglasses, a few movies to cultivate its neccesity, embed select invities for support. The usual look at how important I am dog and pony show 😉

    • keesje, while some of those people may order a B-747-8BBJ/VIP, most will not. I just cannot see the President of France, or the EU President (who is really just a figurhead, and not a head of state) flying around in Boeing’s biggest jet when the have Airbus in their back yard. Out of your list, I think Japan is the most likely, and maybe Saudi Arabia.

        • I know. The A-380 has sold only one VIP airplane, IIRC, and that one is one of the flight test airplanes. Boeing, OTOH, has 9 orders for the B-747-8BBJ/VIP, and he mentioned 9 customers.

      • France already picked a new Presidential jet… an A330. No bid. They took it used from Air Caribes. Sarko 1 entered service in 2010.

  9. I do not think that Airbus is counting on VIP sales to fill the A380 order book. Of course they will not refuse a sale.

    It would also be nice to stop the ‘mine is better’ approach and bring some substance to the discussion.

    KC135TopBoom :
    I know. The A-380 has sold only one VIP airplane, IIRC, and that one is one of the flight test airplanes. Boeing, OTOH, has 9 orders for the B-747-8BBJ/VIP, and he mentioned 9 customers.

  10. I doubt any European head of state would get away with ordering something the size of an A380 or B747. A330/A350 is more like it. I’m guessing only the US and China and a number of governments that don’t care what their electorates think – if they have them – would go for a plane that big.

    • Agree. Maybe we can ask our local media industry to start creating a virtual reality where everyone slowly starts believing it is a necessary, proud and smart investment. That it is actually their aircraft and that everyone in the world admires it (don’t ask). Reflecting glory and power on themselves..

      😉 Just jooking, every opposition party / tv show would have a field day stabbing everyone suggesting it. A few yrs ago a candidate for the first EU presidency was sought. There was a candidate that met the qualifications and was acceptable to most but actually had an opinion too. That disqualified him. Bye bye Tony Bair.

  11. A simple conversion will never be enough, expect north of $2billion and a ten year painful development process. Fear will rule this program.

    • I’m not sure the Congress will go for a $6B program for just 3 airplanes. I still think the cost will be about $850M to $1B per airframe.

      • I still remember the days they made a fuss about the billion dollar aircraft carriers.
        Now we are looking at aircraft that would cost that much.
        Talk about hyper inflation.

        • Actually we have already passed the $1B threshold per airplane with the B-2A constuction back in the 1990s.

      • The helicopter program hit $13billion, $500million per aircraft. If the AF1 program costs less I will be amazed.

        • Yes, I know. But the USAF program is only buying 3 airplanes, the VH-71 program was for 24 helios, I think.

    • I know I’m being naive here, but why?
      the whole world of global leaders fly either leased, secondhand or – if they’re lucky / feel like spending – new build and slightly modified.

      737’s go for 35musd, A380 go for 250?musd apparently.
      Buy 5 777’s – 1 extreme luxury for when the pres flies alone, and a sliding scale allowing for ever more pax, selecting the airframe on the range/payload requirements of the mission (and save the tax-payer a bundle!)

      I you want to claim AF1 needs extensive defensive packages and/or communications set up, I’m sure modifying a B-2 and painting it blue will be cheaper and result in a better/safer command center in the sky in case of impossible attack. create some kind of living accommodation in one bomb-bay (weld the door shut first… or not 😉 ), and the command center in the other, and you’re done.

  12. I was sad to notice the following comments in the Av. Week Mag of March 5,’12:

    Lufthansa’s orphan fleet. When the order for these aircraft was struck at a huge
    discount, to sweeten Lufthansa after the Connection disaster, I guess it looked
    like a good deal.
    But now DLH is left sitting with a bunch of airplanes nobody wants, almost a
    unique fleet that that must surely have big support costs, zero resale value and
    probably not the same glittering careers enjoyed by Lufthansa’s other 747s.
    Two years late, billions of dollars over budget, under-performing an abandoned
    by the market — all hail the 747–8I, with 112 747-400s parked in the dessert.

    • Going by judgement spouted from select persons LH always bought the wrong planes ( from Airbus : A340 and never the glorious 777 ).
      Coming forward to the present they are chided for having expanded that to purchases from Boeing.

      Funny that LH hasn`t gone bust yet.

      • Correct, Uwe. But LH could have made MORE money had they bought the B-77W instead of the A-346. LH is one of the largest operators of the A-340 in the world, but they could have done better.

      • KC, Lufthansa and the former Swissair were launch customers for both the A310 and the TA-11 (A340). Lufthansa wanted the “small” wing on the A310, and got it, while for the TA-11, due to the airlines’s route requirements in the mid to late 1980s, Lufthansa was far more interested in the quad-engined TA-11 than the twin-engined TA-9 (A330).

        • Yes, I know, but Lufty has some A-330s, too.

          But this has nothing to do with the new AF-1, or the B-747-8 (other than LH has ordered it).

      • Well, since an A340-500 would look absolutely stunning in the original SAM 26000 Kennedyesque AF1 livery, perhaps the AF could get three dirt cheap and lighly used ones from TG. 😉

        Heck, if Sarko can use a used frame, why can’t the POTUS? Also, as the US currently has according to Dick a growing international aerospace image problem, an A345AF1 might solve that problem too. 😉

        In short, the US has five foreign aircraft contract deaths, which are on their own quite explicable and justifiable. We’ve got a US jetliner content support program that looks irresistible to export promoters and the aerospace industrial base. But add it all up, and the US has a growing international aerospace image problem. In a time when US aerospace is more dependent on exports than ever, this is a very dangerous development.

        • I doubt very much the Secret Service will approve the buying of any used aircraft, no matter who made it. It is true the USAF occasionally buys used aircraft, like some of the C-40Cs were originally Ford Motor Company B-737-800BBJ2s, the POTUS is not allowed to use them. The SS likes to supervise every step of design, production, and modification of the airplanes. They did that for every AF-1 since VC-135C #72-7000 was built and purchased. So, it is going to be a new build airplane, no matter which type is selected by the Air Force.

  13. KC135TopBoom :
    Correct, Uwe. But LH could have made MORE money had they bought the B-77W instead of the A-346. LH is one of the largest operators of the A-340 in the world, but they could have done better.

    LH doesn’t follow you there ( Who actually would follow your advice?).

    My guess is the 777 is as overhyped as winglets are 😉
    It may have a positive margin but not in the order of what most proponents allege
    and at a level that keeps factors in the decission chain.

    Look back at Boeing carefully crafting an environment for the appraisers to live in
    for creation of “value bloat” for their products.

    • If you are guessing the B-777 is overhyped, then I guess you must feel the same about the A-330.

        • Overall sales of both the B-777 and A-330 are healthy for each OEM. Just because LH stayed with the A-340, when the ordered the -600 does not mean they viewed the B-77W as not being a good business choice for someone. They did get a sweetheart deal from Airbus. The A-343s they had were ordered before the B-777 EIS. The B-777-200ER (originally called the IGW) entered service in 1997, about 2 years after the original B-77A, and 4 years after the A-343 entered service in 1994. The A-343 could carry about 295 in a 3 class and the B-77A/E carried about 301 in a 3 class. So, they were about the same capacity, and the B-777 could carry more cargo. The B-77E also had about 500nm more range than the A-343. In fact the B-77E also has a 200nm range advantage over the A-346, but carrying fewer pax. By the time the A-346 EIS (2002?) the B-77W was well into developement and its EIS was in 2004, the same year LH ordered 24 A-346s.

          The B-777 was the first airliner built that had a design team that included 8 major airlines of the world, but LH did not join that group. It was also the first airliner to be granted ETOPS-180 the same day it was certified, later that same year, it got ETOPS-207. It could have flown just about every route LH has.

      • the 777-300ER is doing great, the 777-200, 200ER, 200LR were ….ed a while ago. The backlog is 15-16, don’t know how hard they are. It seems the A340s twinsister, the A330, took revenge for her brother 😉

        Coming back to topic the 747-8 seems a clear winner for a AF ” competition”. Maybe Airbus throws in an alternative at a very competitive price to have congress sweat. As long as a acceptable qoute , the 10% profit guarantee, congress, Hollywood and Fox are lined up, a $2-3 billion turnover should be achievable for Boeing.

      • Hi KC I have just heard that Sprit has been hit very badly by tornado’s with pictures of airframe part’s i hope nobody’s hurt.

        • Yeah, apparently a lot of damage to Boeing and Sprite facilities. There is a picture on of a damaged B-737NG fuselarge. I don’t know yet if any of the tooling Sprite has for the A-350 program was damaged, or not. Sprite is to build a fuselarge section and the front wing spar for the A-350. The 22nd Air Refueling Wing across the runways at McConnel AFB, evacuated most of their KC-135Rs to North Dakota before the storms hit. AFAIK, there were no fatalities and just a few minor injuries, much like the tornados that went through here in DFW a few weeks ago. Sadly, elsewhere in Kansas, there were 5 fatalities from the tornados.

  14. An approach to Lufthansa is likely to arrive at a competitive offer for relatively easily convertible new commercial 7478i airframes at an agreeable price with the added bonus of early delivery.

  15. From the same Richard Abouloufia article quoted by OV-99 above, “Giuseppi Giordo, CEO of Finmeccanica’s Alenia Aermacchi unit, even went so far as to threaten to withhold spare parts and support for the 21 USAF C-27Js now in the pipeline if they’re sold to new users.”

    This strikes me as a very unwise threat to make. It hints of that problem that many americans pointed out during the tanker wars, namely that foreign firms can withhold parts and service when things don’t suit them.

    True, he threatened to withhold these items from anyone buying these aircraft from the US, but in essence, he has, in my mind, opened up that Pandora’s box and this “threat” from him will most likely be mentioned quite often over the next few years.

    • Wise or not that is the question 😉

      “Open Markets” were usefull as long as the US could dominate those markets.
      The political objective was not fairness but advantage. The US could enter any
      market while the foreign competition did not have the lever to “return the favor”.

      After having squandered this privileged position via greedy outsourcing and
      distinct lethargy/inability product attractiveness wise we now see a (re)turn towards
      market segmentation and forcefull political/military coecion.

      This has been a coming for quite some time now and the Alenia guy only states what is current status quo.

      • So when Airbus, a few years ago refused to support new A-340s traded into Boeing by SQ that was alright? Germany has said they plan on selling a significant portion of their new A-400Ms when they take deliveryand Airbus’s reaction is alright too?

    • AFAIK, any international customer of US sourced military hardware (and even stuff dubiously marked as “Dual Use”) requires US clearance to repair, refit, resell or change just about anything – remember that fine Boeing got because it sold “dual use” gyro? equipped a/c to china… All hail ITAR
      I think this statement is one you must make as a responsible arms manufacturer. Italy (EU) and the US may disagree on what countries you should, and what countries you should not sell arms to. All I hear Alenia say is: “We take our global responsibility serious and we will make our own decision on whether any secondhand customer of our product is eligible to buy our military hardware”.

  16. KC135TopBoom :
    So when Airbus, a few years ago refused to support new A-340s traded into Boeing by SQ that was alright? Germany has said they plan on selling a significant portion of their new A-400Ms when they take deliveryand Airbus’s reaction is alright too?

    Did Airbus actually sell planes to Boeing? ( Did that SQ Boeing deal actually pass as
    industrial espionage?)

    Now the fickle and prone to changing without notice use limitations on (re)sale and use
    of any part that has US content doesn’t exist, right?

    • Exactly where did I say Airbus sold those airplanes to Boeing? The rest of your post is just as rediculus, as usual.

    • No KC, it is not.
      The US is largely responsible for it’s own demise. The US supremacy of the last 5 decades was a result of a complete reversal in US foreign and trade policy in the aftermath of WWII. Before you never wanted to be part of the league of nations, but after initiated the UN
      Before you had large trade tariffs, after you opened up your borders and declared NATO countries (allies!) to be considered equal to US entities for many trade rules.

      The last (few) decades, the US has again started to disconnect from the global market place. ITAR, Trade Embargoes and the badly thought out “War on Terror” costs the US much more than just money – Trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback, and the US has been running that horse hard.

      The US has not been the best the last 50 years because of some intrinsic property of the american people – it’s been the best because the best of the rest wanted to be in america.
      A constant brain drain.
      This inclusiveness was one of the greatest strengths of the USA – now that it is being squandered, look what’s happening…

      • The UN was created and used as a political instrument.
        With decreasing pliability of UN member states the focus
        moved over to “Alliances of the Willing”.

        “Open” and “Close” strategies are based on US advantage
        and not on some philosophical merrit.
        “Freedom and Democracy” is a .mirage.

        One should think about why the field of fundamental sciences
        research is dominated by guests, immigrants and 1st gen citizens.
        Competitiveness has its pros and cons.
        A bunch of people competing over pieces of cake don’t produce more cake 😉 competition is often distributive and
        not creative.

  17. KC135TopBoom :
    Yes, I know. But the USAF program is only buying 3 airplanes, the VH-71 program was for 24 helios, I think.

    Hehe, but the basic AW101 helo sells at a measly $25m i.e. 95% of the VH-71 per item cost were bells and whisles. Not take 20fold to the basic 748 or 380 pricetag : $6.6b reSp. $7.9b PER ITEM! Needing three we talk about $20..22b.

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