The US Air Force has invited Boeing to submit a detailed proposal to supply and modify two passenger-carrying Boeing 747-8s to replace the 747-200-derived VC-25A fleet in the 2024 timeframe.
A 375-page solicitation released by the Air Force on 12 September moves the programme closer to a contract award that would launch the development phase of the Air Force One replacement fleet.
Having already awarded Boeing a $150 million contract to de-risk the design, the Air Force says it is emphasising “cost control and risk reduction” in the Presidential Aircraft Replacement (PAR) programme.
“We are focused on driving out costs where we can, to ensure this program is affordable,” says Col Amy McCain, PAR programme manager.
Though the solicitation specifies a proposal for one aircraft with an option for a second, the Air Force says it is continuing to evaluate adding a third 747-8 to the acquisition.
The Air Force released the proposal after receiving authorisation from Frank Kendall, under secretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Boeing selected the 747-8 to replace the VC-25A without a competition in January 2015. An analysis had concluded the Air Force needs a four-engined widebody to perform the mission, leaving only the 747-8 and Airbus A380 as candidates. Airbus initially expressed interest several years ago in offering the A380 for the Air Force One contract, but later maintained that it would not pursue the deal.