The US Air Force may have a difficult time finding more than one aircraft manufacturer to compete for replacing the Boeing VC-25A, also known as 'Air Force One', in a few years.
The USAF's long-range budget plans anticipate releasing a request for proposals for a presidential aircraft replacement (PAR) contract in the third quarter of fiscal year 2015, according to budget documents released last February.
EADS North America once considered offering the Airbus A380 to replace the 747-200-based VC-25A, but it is no longer clear if the company is willing to participate in a competition.
Airbus may not be willing to offer its A380 as a presidential aircraft replacement candidate
The VC-25A replacement programme does not fit within EADS's long-term growth strategy for the North American market, which is focused on establishing a permanent manufacturing and service base on US soil, EADS North America said in response to questions.
If the A380 is withheld by EADS, the USAF's only available options will be Boeing products, including VIP versions of the Boeing 747-8I, 777 or 787. Four years ago, the USAF requested data on all three aircraft for an analysis of alternatives. Information about the A380 and A350 was also sought as part of the study.
Earlier this year, Boeing defeated an Airbus bid to replace the air force's KC-135 tanker fleet with its 767-based KC-46A, which was selected ahead of a development of the A330-200.
The PAR requirement has been quiet for several years, but was highlighted in Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley's speech at the Air Force Association convention in Washington DC on 19 September.
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The USAF wants to start looking for a VC-25A replacement from 2015
"We have recognised for several years now that the Air Force One replacement is out there in our future," Donley said. "We're being asked to look at the status of our forces beyond the five-year future defence plan (FYDP), and we have to be mindful of what's just outside the FYDP."
Source: Flight International