The cost of buying, equipping, and preparing to operate the two Boeing 747s that will become the next Air Force One presidential transport aircraft is now pegged at $5.3 billion, nearly one-third more than the figure routinely touted by the White House, according to Air Force officials and Pentagon budget documents.
The $5.3 billion price tag is the Pentagon’s first public accounting to include the new hangars and various other costs.
According to Defense One article Air Force One replacement program the entire program cost, which includes infrastructure projects and a bevvy on ancillary items, is now pegged at a whopping $5.3B.
This is roughly a third more than the figure the Air Force has touted in the past for the program. But what’s even more concerning is that the cost of the planes themselves and the conversion of them into militarized VC-25Bs now stands at $4.68B.
This is approximately $780 million more than the long-standing program cost estimate of around $3.9B that the Air Force had routinely given out to the public.
“The total VC-25B acquisition cost…is $5.3B and encompasses all costs associated with fielding the system,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek wrote in an email Monday, referring to the new Air Force One by its military designation.
“The additional costs beyond the $3.90B are for standard work outside of the Boeing contract scope for two aircraft,” Stefanek wrote. “These include government testing, initial spares, support equipment, product support, training and military facilities construction. These additional costs are standard costs typically separate from the prime contractor work to deliver the system on acquisition programs and are part of nearly every system the government acquires.”
The Air Force has asked Congress for $758 million in 2020 to begin converting the two commercial 747 jetliners purchased in 2017 into a flying White House configuration.
That work includes “management, detailed design, integration, modification, test/verification, certification, and product support to deliver two Presidential mission-ready…aircraft,” budget documents state.
The physical work on the two jetliners is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020, according to a project schedule.
There’s also another $86 million request to start work on a new hangar complex at Joint Base Andrews, the two planes’ eventual home.
In 2018, the White House said that Trump’s purported deal with Boeing had shaved approximately $1.5B off the total cost, the final price tag had not actually changed from the Air Force’s previous estimate.
However, $3.9B plus $1.5B is $5.4B, which is very close to the estimate of what the two new VC-25Bs will cost, inclusive of all necessary related items, which can only further call into question the claim from the Trump Administration that the program is less expensive in any way now than it was last year.
That $4.68B figure is for just two aircraft, both of which aren’t even exactly new. They have been baking in the Mojave Desert for years.
The two 747-8is were built for the defunct Russian airline Transero, which went bankrupt in 2015. Aeroflot bought up most of its assets but had no interest in the 747-8is. So, Boeing flew the jets to Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville where they have been stored in the open ever since.