Boeing to Build Air Force One Replacement With Bids for Systems

The Air Force will let Boeing Co. build the replacement for Air Force One without competition but allow bidding on specialized equipment for the new presidential aircraft, the service informed Congress.

Air Force Secretary Deborah James on Wednesday signed a document that justifies keeping Boeing as the sole source contractor to provide three modified 747-8 passenger planes, according to an e-mail notifying congressional committees.

The service determined that Boeing’s aircraft is the only one manufactured in the U.S. “that when fully missionized meets the necessary critically important capabilities” that the president needs, the e-mail said. The competition would be for systems such as the plane’s advanced electronics and communications.

Chicago-based Boeing has been the sole provider of aircraft used by U.S. presidents since 1962, according to its website. While Air Force One is the designation for any plane carrying the president, it usually refers to one of two current 747s outfitted with features that include a presidential suite and conference room and advanced security and communications, according to the White House website. It can be refueled in midair and serve as a mobile command center if the U.S. comes under attack.

James determined a sole-source contract for the aircraft and spare parts “is in the public interest,” the congressional notification said. The decision doesn’t trigger an immediate contract award, as the Air Force continues to complete its acquisition strategy, according to the service.

No Airbus Proposal

Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS said in 2013 it didn’t intend to make a proposal based on its double-decker A380 jet. Still, the service “intends to incorporate competition” for the aircraft subsystems and “will participate substantially in any competition led” by Boeing, it said.

The Air Force has budgeted $1.6 billion for research through 2019 on the presidential aircraft replacement program. The Air Force is seeking to replace its aging Boeing 747-200 aircraft, which will reach their planned 30-year service life in 2017. The first new Air Force One isn’t expected to be delivered until 2018, when it will be tested before entering service in fiscal 2023.

Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson had no immediate comment pending a formal Air Force announcement.