Boeing 747-8 selected as next Air Force One platform. And here’s how it will probably look like.

U.S. Air Force has identified the Boeing 747-8 platform for next Air Force One

A “fully missionized” platform based on the 747-8, the latest and largest version of the iconic Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, will serve as the presidential aircraft, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, announced on Jan. 28, 2015.

The Boeing 747-8 was selected following a market research and the assessment of the capabilities of the two four-engine aircraft that could meet the requirements: the Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380.

“This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft,” said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program manager in a release on the U.S. Air Force website. “We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost.”

A fleet of three Boeing 747-8 will replace the current, obsolete VC-25 aircraft. Once ready, in 2018, the new aircraft will be more capable and efficient than their predecessors, heavily modified Boeing 747-200 jets.

As already explained on The Aviationist, along with the internal design, meeting rooms and wide array of communication systems, what makes the Air Force One different is the self-protection suite. Much information on this topic is classified, still, the VC-25 aircraft is known to be fitted with active electronic counter measures, that are able to jam enemy radar frequencies as well as IRCM (Infrared Counter Measure) systems needed to divert heat seeking Infra Red missiles by disturbing their guidance systems.

The one in use on the AF1 is the AN/ALQ-204 Matador produced by the BAe Systems. Such system protect the plane from both IR air-to-air and ground-to-air (MANPADS – Man Portable Air Defense Systems) missiles.

The plane is also equipped with chaff and flares dispensers: the first type is used to divert radar-guided missiles, while the flares are high-temperature heat sources ejected from the aircraft’s dispensers to mislead the missile’s heat-seeking targeting system: since the burn temperature is hotter than that at the engine’s exhaust the burning flares attract and deceive heat-seeking missiles fired at the aircraft.

Similar and surely more advanced countermeasures will equip the new ones.

When, about three years ago, the selection of the Boeing 747-8 became obvious, we asked our contributor Al Clark to prepare a digital mock-up of the new plane sporting the Air Force One’s traditional light-blue and sky-blue color scheme that you can find on top of this article.

Digital mock-up by Al Clark

About David Cenciotti 4451 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.


  1. Now poor Fox News has to wait for a year to see whether a republican or a democrat will win the next elections so that we can find out if the president is spending tax payers money on unnecessary things.

    • “…..spending tax payers money on unnecessary things.” Like the half $1 BILLION of tax payers $$$$ to Obama’s TOP fat cat campaign fundraisers & contributors at Solyndra? Like George Kaiser. Period. 2/08/investigator-who-cleared-obama-in-solyndra-scandal-a-top-donor/

  2. Wow that’s a sweet plane for our Presidential staff. I wonder what it’s “fully missionized” capabilities will be…

    • Probably similar to the current VC-25s that perform the service. To quote from the Wikipedia article on the VC-25,

      “The aircraft can also be operated as a military command center in the event of an incident such as a nuclear attack. Operational modifications include aerial refueling capability and anti-aircraft missile countermeasures. The electronics on board are connected with approximately 238 miles (383 km) of wiring, twice that of a regular 747. All wiring is covered with heavy shielding for protection from an electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear attack. The aircraft also has electronic countermeasures (ECMs) to jam enemy radar, flares to avoid heat-seeking missiles, and chaff to avoid radar-guided missiles.”

  3. Oh how I’d love to be a member of Congress at this point. I would be raising hell about this plan.

    Given the enormous budget deficits the federal government is piling up and the huge debt that will be passed along to our children and grandchildren, spending money to transport one person in still greater luxury and safety is obscene. It reminds me of Rome’s emperors in the empire’s decline.

    Our air force is still flying B-52 constructed in the early 1960s. We have only begun replacing tankers built in that same era. I really do think that our presidents can get by with one that came into service about 1990 and that has built up only a tiny fraction of the flying hours of the typical aircraft we might ride when we fly commercial.

    No, we need need to start slashing into the perks enjoyed by elected federal officials and we need to keep those restraints in place until they end those deficits and whittle down our federal debt to a more manageable level.

    You know what is fascinating? Reading descriptions of how members of Congress lived at about the time of the Civil War. No elegant homes. No limos to drive them to the Capitol. When Congress was in session, they typically stayed in boarding houses. At the dinner table, they’d be passing the peas and fried chicken to a traveling salesman or a horse dealer. And when it came time to legislate, they walked up the same muddy streets as everyone else.

    That’s what we need to get back to. We need to end the sense of entitlement that so many in high positions in government seem to regard as their right. And we can start with Air Force One, although we definitely should not end there.

    How are historians going to summarize our era? I suspect it will be as the generation that systematically cheated all those that would follow.

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