It’s the Dash-8 for Air Force One

The Air Force will base the next presidential transport, call sign Air Force One, on the Boeing 747-8, the service announced Wednesday. The Dash-8 “is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States,” which when “fully missionized” can meet the project’s stringent requirements, according to service Secretary Deborah Lee James. Made in the USA is important because the aircraft is “one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America,” James said. The existing VC-25s are 747-200Bs, which have been flying since 1987. They’ve performed well, James said, but are afflicted with “parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources, and increased downtimes for maintenance” and they need to be replaced. Air Force One is a tough mission, she continued, because USAF must provide the President with “safe and reliable air transportation with high levels of security and communication capability as the alternate White House.” The Dash-8 will provide that “for future Presidents.” A service spokesman said USAF will acquire three aircraft in total. Separate requests for proposals—one for the airframe and one for mission equipment—will be issued this year, with a contract award expected in 2017. The first airplane that will be ready for modification to the Air Force One configuration is to be delivered in late 2018, and is to be operational in 2023. On this schedule, President Obama’s successor might get to fly in it, assuming he or she wins two terms. The Dash-8 closely resembles the iconic 747, but with an extended upper deck and new wings.