Air Force: Full costs on Air Force One not yet known
By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 22, 2017
WASHINGTON — Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that the cost of Air Force One has been cut by $1 billion, the Air Force said Wednesday that the price tag for the program has yet to be determined.
Trump made the claim during a rally in Florida on Saturday, telling the gathered crowd: “We got that price down by over $1 billion. And I probably haven’t spoken, to be honest with you, for more than an hour on the project.”
The Air Force wants to replace two Air Force One aircraft by 2024. Reuters has reported the initial cost estimates are about $2.87 billion, based on Air Force documents it has reviewed.
Trump has suggested the United States could cut costs by developing only one replacement aircraft.
The Air Force flies two VC-25 presidential aircraft, which are modified Boeing 747s. One entered service in 1990 and the second in 1991. The Air Force is planning to replace the two planes with Boeing 747-8s, which are 18 feet longer, have an additional 29 feet of wingspan, fly slightly faster and have a range that is 1,000 miles farther than the current 747s before refueling is required.
Col. Pat Ryder, an Air Force spokesman, emphasized the White House would drive the requirements on how many presidential aircraft it needs.
“I don’t want to speak for the White House. But philosophically speaking, having two aircraft gives you the flexibility you need to ensure you are able to meet the mission requirements,” he said. “Having another aircraft gives you the ability to put one into phased maintenance, for example, or if there are issues with that aircraft you have other options.”
More so, the Air Force is still estimating the full costs of the program, Ryder said. To date, the service has spent $172 million on risk reduction such as making certain the planned systems for the future aircraft are interoperable. The service should have a clearer idea of the full costs by the fall after it awards initial contracts for the plane, he said.
“That will give us a better idea of how much we’ll be looking at for the cost,” Ryder said.