WASHINGTON — Boeing will be late to deliver the two new Air Force One planes currently under construction, the U.S. Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition official said Thursday.
Last month, Boeing reported a $318 million charge on the VC-25B program to turn two Boeing 747s into new presidential aircraft, which are given the call sign “Air Force One” when the commander in chief is onboard.
The charges occurred just weeks after Boeing canceled its contract with GDC Technics, a Texas-based company contracted to supply VC-25B interiors, for falling more than a year behind schedule. GDC later countersued Boeing, alleging that Boeing was responsible for the delays.
Ultimately the Air Force is still analyzing the full impact of the dispute on the program’s schedule, said Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the military deputy for the Air Force’s acquisition, technology and logistics enterprise.
“I think we’re definitely expecting an impact; the extent of it is not yet known,” he told attendees at the McAleese & Associates conference.
The first VC-25B was originally scheduled for delivery in 2024.
“Obviously on Air Force One, interiors is a very critical supplier so we’ve got to get that right,” Richardson said. “Boeing is working hard. They’ve got another supplier identified. We’re going to transfer as much of the work on the interiors as possible. We’ve already made a lot of decisions on the interior, but there’s a whole lot of work left to go.”
A Boeing spokeswoman declined to share more details about the delays to the VC-25B program and declined to name the new interior subcontractor.
Richardson called the issues a “setback” but said Boeing has been responsive about communicating impacts to the program’s schedule.
Importantly, he said, the company is “not trying to back away” from its firm, fixed-price contract with the government, which holds Boeing responsible for paying costs in excess of the $3.9 billion ceiling agreed upon in 2018. The price of the program is estimated to hit $5.3 billion once ancillary costs, such as new hangars and revised technical manuals, are included.
“I’m very confident in the transparency that Boeing has given us in terms of what happened and what they are doing to fix it,” Richardson said. “We’re going to obviously look at the schedule, we have to look at it pragmatically.”
So far Boeing has logged $486 million in losses on the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2020, Boeing began making structural changes to the two Boeing 747s that will become VC-25Bs. The jets will receive upgrades including enhanced electrical power, specialized communication systems, a medical facility, a customized executive interior and autonomous ground operations capabilities.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.