The Pentagon launched a new program on August 10 for the development and acquisition of replacement presidential aircraft scheduled to be operational early next decade, reports Tony Capaccio for Bloomberg.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall ordered the Air Force to assemble an office for the replacement project which involves new designs for Air Force One and Marine One helicopters.
The current Air Force One models are two VC-25A Boeing 747-200B aircrafts. They have been in service since September 1990 and are expected to last 30 years.
The new Air Force one design proposes new capabilities such as mid-air refuelling, unlimited travel range, and hardened electronics to withstand electric pulse.
The new design also introduces secure communications equipment to be utilized as a mobile command center during emergencies and a medical suite that can be converted into an operating room.
Bllomberg reports, an unidentified defense official said that the first phase of the program will concentrate on the completion of a market analysis report and performance assessment requisites for presidential transportation.
The Pentagon has already set aside funding for the program until 2017.
$757 million worth of funding are allocated for the initial phase of Air Force One replacement and $1.84 billion for the Marine One replacements.
The proposal is received as positive news for various aircraft and engine manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co., General Electric Co., and United Technologies Corp.
Pentagon predicts that a working prototype of the new Air Force One will be delivered in 2019 under the new 30-year aviation plan.
The defense official added that the new presidential helicopters will be ready for use in 2020 while the new Air Force One will be available in 2023.
Kendall also ordered the Air Force to develop a plan that targets a request for proposals from the airplane industry in 2015 and a contract award in 2016.
The defense official stated that the Air Force’s analysis will be the foundation of their decision in determining if the contest will be open for competition or sole-source.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified in March 2010 that there is a critical need to replace the presidential aircraft. He revealed that they possess enough funds for the program and will be further augmented in the coming years.
President Barack Obama believes that the program is an example of wasteful procurement and says he is content with the current presidential aviation fleet, in a speech given in February 2009.
Still, Kendall has already authorized the Air Force to start detailed planning for an acquisition procedure in his memo, according to Bloomberg.
The goal is to release a request for proposals to the helicopter industry in fiscal 2013 and start contract development in 2014. The defense official clarified that an exact number of helicopter orders has yet to be released.