According to President-elect Trump, the price tag for the next Air Force One is $4 billion. Of course, that figure requires a little bit of explanation. Defense Times cites Todd Harrison, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who tweeted that the Air Force's budget for the 747-8-based Air Force One successors shows $2.9 billion in research and development.
Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016
Considering the multitude of enhancements over a standard 747 – Air Force One is more command post than airliner, capable of coordinating US military activity anywhere on the planet, surviving an electromagnetic pulse, and beating surface-to-air missile defenses, not to mention all the classified goodies the general public doesn't know about – $2.9B in research and development seems reasonable compared to other military line items. And as Harrison's tweet points out, the Air Force's budget doesn't even list procurement. That final figure should ring up around $1B, making PEOTUS' tweet largely correct.
To be clear, it's $4B for two planes that operate as a flying command post for POTUS in a national emergency, have EMP protection, etc. https://t.co/U9rpQ69FTt— Todd Harrison (@ToddHarrisonDC) December 6, 2016
But at the same time, calling for cancellation of the successor to the VC-25 – the USAF's designation for the two 747-200Bs that serve as presidential jets – based on price alone is still a manipulation of information. Yes, $4 billion is a lot of cash, but today's VC-25s are nearing the end of their useful lives. Citing a Military.com report from last month, Gizmodo points out that maintenance of the aging jets is becoming a serious issue.
"The real challenge and the challenge that is forcing us to buy newer aircraft for the president is to overcome the fact that there are heroics going on every day to keep the current aircraft flying and it's becoming way too expensive and way too difficult to do that," Kevin Buckley, the program executive officer of mobility programs for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center told Military.com.
The next-gen Air Force One won't enter service until 2024.