Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pentagon Eyes New Air Force One

The Aero News Network is reporting this morning that the U.S. Air Force is looking at replacing the Boeing 747-200B "VC-25A" aircraft which serve as Air Force One when the President is on board. The acquisition program was authorized late last week by Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall. The authorization also reportedly includes new Marine One helicopters as well.

Bloomberg Business Week reports that the current VC-25A aircraft entered into service in 1990 with an expected service life of 30 years. That would put them at the end of their service in another 8 years.

According to a memo leaked by a source who wished to remain anonymous, the program will first focus on a market analysis of performance requirements. That information will be reviewed by the joint chiefs, and will form the basis for a decision whether to sole-source from Boeing, or open a competitive bid.

The plan outlined by Kendall looks for an RFP to be submitted to the aircraft industry in 2015. The contract for the new AF-1 could be let as early as 2016.

The Pentagon will also look into the feasibility of replacing the helicopters designated "Marine One" when the President is on board. The Marine Corps currently flies VH-3D Sea Kings or the newer, smaller VH-60N "WhiteHawk" helicopters when transporting the President. A contract for a new VH-71 helicopter was terminated in 2009 prior to President Obama's inauguration by then-Defense-Secretary Robert Gates due to cost overruns and delays. In the memo outlining the AF-1 replacement strategy, Kendall also calls for an RFP to be issued to the helicopter industry in 2013, with a target date for a contract to be in place by 2014 for an undetermined number of aircraft.