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USAF Seeks Air Force One Replacement 640

Tyketto writes "The United States Air Force has taken the first public step in the search for a replacement of the Boeing VC-25, also known as Air Force One, saying it is no longer cost effective to operate and modernize the two 19-year-old VC-25s, which are converted Boeing 747-200s. Airbus has already submitted data for the A380, and while Boeing has had the Air Force One contract for nearly 50 years, delays with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing 747-8, as well as the KC-X Tanker competition, may see the USAF looking to Europe for its next presidential aircraft."
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USAF Seeks Air Force One Replacement

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  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:22AM (#26398353) Homepage Journal

    It is actually surprising how much is involved in transporting the POTUS. Last time the POTUS was in town [] there was a considerable presence that travelled around with him and Air Force One is only a small part of that traveling circus. While the current VC-25 are starting to show their age, one does wonder just what sort of requirements creep are involved. It used to be that simple transport would be acceptable and in actuality, the 737 makes for a wonderful government transport in the C-40 [] and in fact the current 747 design (though modified since) has been in place since just 1990. In some ways the 747-8 does simplify some systems, making maintenance easier and cheaper as well as possessing more efficient engines, but just playing an opposing advocate, do we really need a 747-8 or an A380? My bias would be yes for a number of reasons, but I also think it is reasonable to ask some harder questions about what is actually required.

    • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:53AM (#26398591) Homepage Journal

      I'm sure it receives a lot of special modifications. Here's what they do to protect a C130 from a heat seeking missile: []
      I'd imagine the onboard "electronic warfare" package is also substantial.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GooberToo ( 74388 )

        Here's what they do to protect a C130 from a heat seeking missile

        Flares are not very effective against modern heat seeking weapons; and that was true at least one generation of seekers ago. Modern heat seeking missiles are actually pretty good at distinguishing between the sun and exhaust, and exhaust and flares. Modern anti-heat seeking counter defensive systems actually use lasers to destroy the uber sensitive sensors contained within this class of missiles. If you notice "disco balls" on aircraft, especi

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Xest ( 935314 )

        I'm kind of intrigued to know what features it has in place should the plane outright fail for some reason, such as a catastrophic airframe failure or if for some reason all engines failed or even a fire on board.

        What are the evacuation features for a plane like this? Does it really have a kind of escape pod? does it just use parachutes?

        Anyone any idea?

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:53AM (#26398601)

      Presidents tend to have pretty big egos, so maybe the space is needed.

      On the other hand, the Senate scolded the American Big Three for their corporate jets. Maybe the Air Force should be a better role model, and go for something smaller.

      I was thinking of something like this: []

      The President could have some real fun with that, and it would add teeth to his domestic and foreign policy.

      • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @12:12PM (#26399313) Homepage Journal

        On the other hand, the Senate scolded the American Big Three for their corporate jets. Maybe the Air Force should be a better role model, and go for something smaller.

        I understand the scolding in the context, but I still believe that after a certain point, a corporate or even personal plane makes sense. While a corporate plane might be a little slower in the air, it has the advantage that it can fly direct to anywhere in it's range, with extremely flexible takeoff times.

        When somebody is that valuable, it makes sense. For the big three, a mid-point would have been if all three(and their assistants), had taken the same private plane.

        For the president, he has to worry about presenting himself to 50 different states covering a quarter of the globe. He also has to represent the country to the world - adding in other areas. He's actually an active target for assassination, so security is very much a concern. He has to be contactable at all times for security and political reasons. You have to worry about the nuclear football.

        This whole thing is that the current craft are 19 years old and pushing the uneconomical part of the maintenance spectrum; they have a lot of hours on them. Time to retire them and get new planes. Now they're doing the equivalent of new car shopping - which plane is the best for us?

        • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @04:47PM (#26401809) Homepage Journal
          Just because I feel like being a pedant: The US covers less than 7% of the worlds land mass and less than 2% of the globe. Don't know where you got "a quarter of the globe" from unless you're envisaging an occupation of Russia and Canada or something.
    • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:06AM (#26398743)
      The scope hasn't changed. It's always been to transport the absolute maximum possible with absolute safety, total reliability, highest possible speed and lowest cost.

      However, that's not a practical proposition and does contain some mutually contradictory requirements. The good news is that as aircraft get bigger, faster, more reliable and flexible the gap between the "do everything" that's being asked for is getting closer to what can be achieved.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      A 777 would probably due. The thing is going with a brand new design will mean that parts available and life span will both be longer. The 747-8 range and payload would also be handy. A 380 never, not going to happen.

    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#26400171) Homepage Journal
      Most of the Air Force One aircraft of the past are at the On-base annex of the Air Force Museum in Dayton. One thing that's evident is that every one is larger than the last. You can stand in the plane where they swore in LBJ after Kennedy was killed.

      To visit the aircraft, you have to arrive early at the museum and ask your way to the folks who dispense base tickets, as you'll need to take a bus from the museum to the base. Bring good ID, it's a military base and security is serious.

      The museum is a great side-trip before or after the Dayton Hamvention. Definitely worth a day, you will find it difficult to see everything in that long.

  • by Elanthius ( 525620 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:26AM (#26398385)
    Oh please! No matter what the cost, no matter what the delay, no matter what they'll never look outside America to replace Air Force One.
    • by drxenos ( 573895 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:29AM (#26398409)
      You're wrong. The helicopter replacing Marine One is European. Why wouldn't they do the same for Air Force One?
      • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:16AM (#26398823) Homepage

        You're wrong. The helicopter replacing Marine One is European. Why wouldn't they do the same for Air Force One?

        Incorrect. The VH-71 Kestrel is based on the US101 airframe, which is a derivative of the European EH101, but it's a joint venture between Lockheed-Martin and AgustaWestland and it's being built here in the US by Bell Helicopter.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Incorrect. The VH-71 Kestrel is based on the US101 airframe, which is a derivative of the European EH101, but it's a joint venture between Lockheed-Martin and AgustaWestland and it's being built here in the US by Bell Helicopter.

          That's the marketing story, yes. Politics demand that any European defense contractor find a US "partner" for a major contract with the US military.

          The patriotically-named "US 101" is an Augusta-Westland AW101 with some outsourced manufacturing (Bell & lockheed) and marketing (L

    • by Clueless Moron ( 548336 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:52AM (#26398589)
      How about Russian? Nothing would say badass as showing up in an An-225 Mriya []
  • by Clueless Moron ( 548336 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:30AM (#26398415)

    Technically, "Air Force One" is the call of any aircraft that has the US President onboard. He could get into a Cessna 172 and it would use that callsign.

    The aircraft in TFA do not call themselves "Air Force One" when the prez is not aboard. I guess they just use their tail numbers then?

    • by jschen ( 1249578 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:44AM (#26398521)
      Actually, Air Force One is the call sign only if the aircraft is an Air Force aircraft. Other potential names include Navy One (for example, when Bush landed on an aircraft carrier), Marine One, and Army One (for obvious reasons). If not flown by the armed services, the call sign would be Executive One. And yes, when not flying the president or the vice president (Air Force Two in that case), the planes would be referred to simply by tail numbers.
    • by SoundGuyNoise ( 864550 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:49AM (#26398569) Homepage
      When Nixon left office, the plane he took off on was Air Force One. When he landed, the plane had the tail number call sign. The call sign changed when Ford was sworn in. The White House made special accommodations with the FAA ahead of time to change the call sign mid-flight.
  • Change (Score:3, Funny)

    by danwesnor ( 896499 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @10:41AM (#26398491)
    Obama's giving us change alright. He buys a new plane, we get to keep the change.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )
      Funny, but it's a long time between ordering one of these planes and having it come into service. The current 747s used as Air Force One were ordered early in Reagan's term. They didn't enter service until the middle of Bush41's term. Obama is unlikely to ever fly in this new plane.
  • by daves ( 23318 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:04AM (#26398719) Journal
    For anyone in the Dayton Ohio area, the Air Force One display at the Air Force Museum [] near Wright Patterson is recommended. They have all of the old planes [] their, complete with FDR's Sacred Cow, with custom wheelchair elevator, and Kennedy's plane.
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:21AM (#26398861)

    Since most of the important modifications for Air Force One have to do with armor, EMP shielding, extra fuel storage, etc., why not start with a military plane that's already got some of these features by design, and just retrofit it with couches and stuff?

    One added benefit would be that it could transport the presidential limo/tank [] in case there is fear of sniper fire at the airport. The president could just be driven from the cargo bay of the plane.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Toveling ( 834894 ) *
      Wiki always has the answer: "The C-5 is also known as "FRED" (Fucking Ridiculous Economic/Environmental Disaster) by its crews due to its maintenance/reliability issues and large consumption of fuel. The C-5 requires an average of 16 hours of maintenance for each flight hour based on 1996 data."
  • The Marine One replacement, the VH-71, saw its budget more than double and face enormous delays [].

    One can only image what will happen to the Air Force One budget.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:28AM (#26398929) Homepage

    I've had it with these --ing Presidents on this --ing plane!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 10, 2009 @11:36AM (#26398987)
    19 years old is not exactly old in terms of aircraft. The previous aircraft, the VC-137 was used from 1962 all the way up to the 2001 (after 1988 it was used as an auxiliary aircraft for airports with runways too short for the VC-25)

    The VC-25 is not a Boeing 747-200. Yes, it is based on the Boeing 747-200, but it is very very heavily modified with everything from midair refueling capabilities to antimissile counter measures to additional fuel tanks.

    It took nearly ten years to develop the VC-25 and untold millions of dollars.

    The airframes are still extremely low in flight hours and have been overhauled a couple of times already.

    What exactly is the point of getting a new aircraft? The 747-200 is not even an obsolete aircraft. Plenty of airlines continue to use them. The 747-400 is basically the same aircraft with a slightly stretched upper deck and a few minor changes. It's a perfectly modern aircraft for which parts are readily avaliable. The advantage of the A380 would be that it's somewhat larger. It's not like the current VC-25 is lacking space. The 747-8 would only add marginally more space.

    One of the reasons for choosing the 747-200 is that it was a tried and true design that world airports could handle without trouble. The A380 would be far more limited as many regional aircraft can't accommodate it.
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Saturday January 10, 2009 @04:30PM (#26401649) Homepage

    an F-22 Raptor?

    That would one bad-ass mo-fo ride.

    I would NOT want to mess with him in that.

  • by SmoothTom ( 455688 ) <> on Saturday January 10, 2009 @06:14PM (#26402651) Homepage

    As a US Citizen and an ex-USAF NCO I firmly believe that an aircraft "Representing the United States of America to the World" as Air Force One does, should be designed and built in the US, not some foreign aircraft with "United States of America" slapped on the sides...

    My personal preference would be something from Boeing, but my requirement would at least be something from the US.

    (This is above and beyond the security aspects of any aircraft systems designed or manufactured by a potential enemy - and ANY country other than us is a potential enemy...)


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