WASHINGTON — The president of the United States will continue to be flown in an American-made plane, as the US Air Force has announced the next presidential aircraft will be produced by Boeing.
The service, in consultation with Undersecretary for acquisition chief Frank Kendall, has selected the Boeing 747-8 design for its Presidential Airlift Recapitalization program.
In a statement announcing the selection, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, service secretary, called the presidential aircraft "one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States."
"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," James said.
The president is flown currently carried in a heavily modified Boeing 747-200B. When he is on board the plane, it is known as Air Force One.
The selection of Boeing is not a shock, given the desire for a four-engine aircraft platform that met the right criteria. The only two companies with realistic offerings for the program were Boeing and Airbus, whose A380 is manufactured in Toulouse, France.
It was always unlikely the service would select a European manufacturer to shuttle around the US president — something James' statement hinted at. when it notes the 747-8 was "is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission."
The selection of the 747-8 is a much-needed boost for Boeing, which has been slowing production on the large airliner for several years. In December, Boeing announced it would be slowing production on the 747-8 down to 16 a year, a drop from 24 per a year in 2013.
The service plans to compete a sustainment contract over the 30-year lifespan of the next Air Force One.
"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," James said in the press release.
"The program will use multiple strategies, such as the use of proven technologies and commercially certified equipment, to ensure the program is as affordable as possible while still meeting mission requirements." James added. "We will insist upon program affordability through cost conscious procurement practices."
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.