The US Air Force has invited Boeing to submit a detailed proposal to supply and modify two passenger-carrying Boeing 747-8s that will provide presidential worldwide airlift support starting in the 2024 timeframe.
The modifications to the 747-8 will include electrical power upgrades, a mission communication system, a medical facility, executive interior, a self-defense system, and autonomous ground operations capabilities.
A 375-page solicitation released by the Air Force on 12 September moves the programme closer to a contract award that would launch the development phase of the Air Force One replacement fleet.
Having already awarded Boeing a $150 million contract to de-risk the design, the Air Force says it is emphasizing “cost control and risk reduction” in the Presidential Aircraft Replacement (PAR) programme.
“We are focused on driving out costs where we can, to ensure this program is affordable,” said Col Amy McCain, PAR programme manager.
Even though the solicitation specifies a proposal for one aircraft with an option for a second, the Air Force states that it is continuing to evaluate adding a third 747-8 to the acquisition.
The Air Force released the proposal after receiving authorisation from Frank Kendall, under secretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, the US Air Force announced Monday.
Boeing selected the 747-8 to replace the VC-25A without a competition in January 2015. An analysis had concluded the Air Force needs a four-engined widebody to perform the mission, leaving only the 747-8 and Airbus A380 as candidates.
The Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program will replace the VC-25A in the 2024 timeframe through a highly tailored acquisition program. Parts obsolescence and diminishing sources for VC-25A replacement parts are driving increased costs and increasing out of service times for heavy maintenance to maintain FAA airworthiness standards.
That time has already grown to well over a year per heavy maintenance cycle, significantly limiting availability for presidential support.