Dec. 7, 2014: The US Air Force is moving up the the Presidential Aircraft Replacement program to seek Requests for Proposals next year, according to the specialty newsletter Inside Defense.
An airframe purchase will occur in 2016, according to the newsletter. Delivery would be in 2018. Boeing, which supplied the two 747-200-based VC-25 aircraft that comprise today’s Air Force One fleet, already has assembled a team for the proposal, Inside Defense reports.
The USAF previously had talked about acquiring replacements in 2021.
Notably, Airbus–which previously said it won’t compete for a new AF One–hedged when asked by the newsletter.
“Airbus, still scarred by its failed bid for the KC-X tanker program, which Boeing won, has not committed to pursuing the Air Force One replacement work. Instead, the company told ITAF last month that it will wait to see the requirements before making a decision whether to compete. The company has concerns about the competitiveness of the program, which would almost certainly favor an American supplier,” the newsletter writes. Airbus and Boeing participated in a 2013 market research study by the USAF.
Suppliers of the highly sensitive military equipment are also already lining up to submit proposals, says Inside Defense, including Northrop Grumman.
For Boeing, this is a prestigious contract. Boeing has provided Air Force One
since the 707 in 1959. The current 747, the -8, is a slow-seller, with a backlog of only 41 aircraft at Nov. 30 and a production rate of 18/yr. There is a large production gap in 2016. Boeing is expected to reduce the production rate.
Building AF One on the same production line as the commercial 747-8, with its highly secretive materials, could be problematic, according to some observers. But the KC-46A, with sensitive equipment, is built on the same line as the commercial 767. Furthermore, Inside Defense reports that the USAF might split the airframe and hardware contracts, which may suggest an after-market installation at a secure location.