New Air Force One to take flight, Pentagon announces

New Air Force One to take flight, Pentagon announces
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By RYAN GORMAN

The Pentagon has picked the next Air Force One.

A fleet of Boeing 747-8 jets will serve as the next presidential aircraft, according to an Air Force statement. They will replace an aging collection of Boeing VC-25 airplanes.

"The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in the statement.

"The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that), when fully missionized, meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest."

The reason there will be multiple aircrafts is because no one plane is labeled Air Force One. The moniker is simply applied to any jet in which the president travels on at a given moment.

The decision came to down to either the Boeing aircraft or an Airbus A380, the Air Force explained.

Both aircraft were the only ones meeting strict specifications including four-engines and a wide body, among others.

The announcement did not come with a contract, those details are still being hammered out.

"This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft," said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program manager.

"We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost."

The Air Force wants to maintain strict control over the planning and manufacture processes to allow for multiple contracts to be awarded for the aircraft's subsystems to allow it to be cutting edge for decades to come.

"We are committed to incorporating competition for subsystems of the missionized aircraft as much as practicable, and will participate substantively in any competitions led by the prime contractor," said James.

"The current fleet of VC-25 presidential aircraft has performed exceptionally well, a testament to the Airmen who support, maintain and fly the aircraft," James said. "Yet, it is time to upgrade. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded.

The two current VC-25s used as Air Force One first took off in 1987 during the Ronald Reagan administration but have undergone several modernizations and retrofits, according to the Air Force.

No timetable has been provided for when the latest edition of the presidential airplane will be finished.