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Boeing wins $3.9B for new-look Air Force One jets

Air Force One
President Donald Trump salutes officials and military officers in April 2018 after disembarking from Air Force One in Key West, Fla. (White House Photo / Shealah Craighead)

The White House has confirmed that Boeing won a firm, fixed-price contract from the U.S. Air Force to deliver two Air Force One presidential jets for $3.9 billion, more than a year and a half after a purported price tag of $4 billion became a sore point for then-President-Elect Donald Trump.

And Trump says these will be jets of a different color.

In today’s statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the contract was formally awarded on July 17. The statement also claimed that the deal represented a savings of more than $1.4 billion when compared with an initial proposal for a $5.3 billion cost-plus contract.

“President Donald J. Trump has emphasized the need to minimize the cost of replacing the two existing Air Force One aircraft,” the statement read. “Yesterday’s action meets that objective and reflects the president’s commitment to our military and to protecting taxpayer dollars.”

In reality, the price for the Air Force One replacement project has been squishy.

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White House, Boeing reach $3.9B Air Force One deal

Air Force One
Boeing will beef up two 747 jets to serve as Air Force One planes. (Boeing Illustration)

The White House says President Donald Trump has struck an “informal deal” with Boeing on a $3.9 billion fixed-price contract for two new Air Force One planes.

“Thanks to the president’s negotiations, the contract will save the taxpayers more than $1.4 billion,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said today in a widely distributed statement.

The extent of the savings is debatable, however.

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How Air Force One’s price is being trimmed

Air Force One
Artwork shows a Boeing 747-8 jet outfitted for use as Air Force One. (FSB-Pond Illustration)

President Donald Trump was stretching the truth when he claimed that he trimmed a billion dollars from the cost of procuring the next two Air Force One planes, but a report on Defense One reveals that significant savings are indeed being made – primarily by cutting back on features that are on the existing Air Force One planes.

According to today’s report, there’s at least one capability on the current Boeing 747-200B jets that the Boeing 747-8 planes acquired last month won’t be able to match: aerial refueling.

Air Force sources told Defense One that the current aircraft, which entered presidential service in 1990, have never used that capability. And thanks to an expanded range of nearly 9,000 statute miles, as opposed to the current range of 7,750 miles, the new planes should be able to manage without an in-flight fill-up.

Going without the aerial refueling was just one of the cost-cutting measures that came out of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s December meeting with Trump and the follow-up talks between Boeing and the Pentagon, Defense One reported.

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Air Force One discount deal goes through

Air Force One
An Air Force One 747 jet flies over the Statue of Liberty. (DOD Photo)

The U.S. Air Force says it’s getting a good deal on two Boeing 747s that were built for a now-bankrupt Russian airline and will now be converted into presidential Air Force One jets.

However, it’s not saying exactly how good the deal is, at Boeing’s insistence.

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Russian leftovers may become Air Force One

Air Force One
First lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump wave from the top of the stairway leading to Air Force One during a trip to Brussels in May. (White House Photo)

Two Boeing 747-8 jets that were given up before delivery by Russia’s bankrupt Transaero Airlines could well end up as the next presidential Air Force One aircraft.

The arrangement, first reported by Defense One, is one of the options being discussed as a response to President Donald Trump’s demand to reduce the multibillion-dollar cost of replacing today’s aging Air Force One planes. The Air Force is negotiating with Boeing over the terms and requirements for the switchover from the two nearly 30-year-old 747-200s that are currently being used.

“We’re still working closely with the Air Force toward a deal, with our focus being to provide the best value and price to the Air Force,” Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson told GeekWire in an email.

Transaero ordered the 747-8s in 2013. Two years later, it declared bankruptcy. Russia’s flagship Aeroflot airlines picked up most of Transaero’s planes but declined to take delivery of the 747-8s. Last year, the planes were parked for long-term storage in Victorville, Calif., where the dry climate of California’s Mojave Desert preserves mothballed jets from corrosion.

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Air Force One, F-35 deals face Pentagon review

The current Air Force One planes were built more than a quarter-century ago. (White House Photo)
The current Air Force One planes were built more than a quarter-century ago. (White House Photo)

President Donald Trump’s defense secretary, James Mattis, has ordered reviews of the multibillion-dollar programs to acquire new Air Force One jets and more F-35 fighter jets – two programs that sparked his boss’ ire in the run-up to his inauguration.

“Yesterday Secretary Mattis directed separate reviews of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said today in a statement quoted by The Hill. “The purpose of these reviews is to inform programmatic and budgetary decisions, recognizing the critical importance of each of these acquisition programs.”

Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the F-35 program, which has experienced cost overruns and production delays. The Boeing Co. is working with the Air Force on the specifications for two replacement Air Force One jets to be used for presidential flights.

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Boeing works with Trump on jet cost concerns

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg speaks with reporters after meeting with Donald Trump. (Worldwide Trends via YouTube)

After meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg says he’s making a “personal commitment” to keep the cost of the next two Air Force One jets below $4 billion.

“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” Muilenburg told reporters on Dec. 21.

Trump threatened in a Dec. 6 tweet to have the Air Force One deal canceled because “costs are out of control, more than $4 billion.” But since then, Muilenburg and other executives have smoothed over the dispute. Wednesday’s meeting in Palm Beach appeared to cement the rapprochement with Trump.

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