Six weeks before his inauguration, US President-elect Donald Trump has already called for the cancellation of a US Air Force programme to replace two 25-year-old Boeing VC-25As with a new Head of State derivative of the 747-8.
“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control,” Trump tweeted on 6 December, adding: “Cancel order!”
Trump added the costs have risen above $4 billion to complete the VC-25A programme, which is identified in USAF budget documents as “presidential aircraft recapitalization”.
The single tweet provided no source for the $4 billion cost estimate.
USAF budget documents released last February indicate planned spending of $3.3 billion from Fiscal 2015 to 2021 to acquire and modify two 747-8s for the presidential transport mission. But those documents exclude cost projections beyond 2021 and any cost estimate updates made since February.
In January 2015, the USAF selected Boeing to supply the 747-8 to replace the VC-25s, which represented the last 747-200s delivered off Boeing’s assembly line in 1991.
In addition to a VIP interior, the Air Force One mission requires several military modifications, including an advanced communications suite, nuclear hardening and defensive systems.
Trump’s message echoes one of the first moves made in 2009 by then newly-elected President Barack Obama. At the time, the US Navy planned to replace a fleet of aging Sikorsky VH-3D with Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71s, but costs had soared to $6.1 billion. Only a month after his inauguration, Obama said the VH-71 acquisition was an “example of the procurement process gone amok”. The procurement was later cancelled, with the USN finally switching to Lockheed/Sikorsky VH-92As for the so called “Marine One” fleet.