Tag Archives: Air Force One

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.

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


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E-4B “Doomsday plane” over London right now. Supporting Air Force One return trip to the U.S.

Nicknamed “doomsday planes”, E-4B are modified B747-200s serve as National Airborne Operations Centers providing “a highly survivable, command, control and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities.”

One aircraft is usually airborne every 12 hours, with another one ready for departure with a 5-minute notice. If national command centers on the ground are attacked or unavailable, an E-4B is immediately scrambled.

One of them was on the ground at Incirlik, Turkey, few days ago.

Another one, that has supported Air Force One trip to the G20 meeting is returning to the U.S. broadcasting its position with the ADS-B, for anyone to see on Flightradar24.com.

Weird, but interesting.


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Air Force One for sale!

Unfortunately, the title does not refer to the famous highly modified Boeing 747s (designated VC-25 by the U.S. Air Force) that is used by President Obama as these planes have undergone many upgrades, and will probably serve the U.S. Administration for a long time before being retired and replaced.

Nevertheless, if you have 50,000 USD in your pocket you may buy a plane, that used Air Force One and Air Force Two callsigns.

The auction is to start on May 15.

Image Credit: aviationlive.org

What plane are we talking about?

The VC-9C with N681AL registration, flying in the 89th Airlift Wing from February 1975 until September 2005.

Why use DC-9 when you have the 747? Well it was the short runways that 747 could not land on that were the reason for using the former.

When it comes to the Air Force One callsign, in fact any airplane the president is aboard takes over this name.

The media professionals did not like the DC-9 at all, due to the uncomfortable seats. They were nowhere near as comfortable, and the journalist cabin was not as spacious as in the original 747.

If you plan to buy a plane and inspect it before bidding you can leave 50,000 USD deposit and go to the Phoenix/Mesa Gateway.

If you do not have sufficient funds, you may buy something cheaper, e.g. 1983 Cessna 182 Skylane, with an entry price of $100. All auctions are available at the General Services Administration website.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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“Doomsday” planes will keep U.S. decision makers alive in case of Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st

Even if scientists have already debunked the Mayan Apocalypse myth, there is a lot of people who still take the alleged imminent end of the world quite seriously.

People around the world is taking different precautions for the many ways the end of the world could become a reality by the end of the week, the most popular of those is the use of shelters or survival pods capable to withstand massive solar storms, huge waves, weather events and so on.

However, if you were among the few U.S. “decision makers”, your escape plan would already have been established and your survival pod would come in the form on an E-4B plane.

In the event of a war, a terrorist attack, a zombie apocalypse, alien invasion etc., whilst the President of the U.S. would be on board the Air Force One,  the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top personalities would be kept alive on board the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of four E-4B planes based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

The aerial platform (supported by several tankers) would give the U.S. military the capability to direct nuclear (and conventional) forces, by receiving, verifying and relaying EAM (Emergency Action Messages).

Nicknamed “doomsday planes”, such modified B747-200s serve as National Airborne Operations Centers providing “a highly survivable, command, control and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities.”

One aircraft is usually airborne every 12 hours, with another one ready for departure with a 5-minute notice. If national command centers on the ground are attacked or unavailable, an E-4B is immediately scrambled: that’s why a “doomsday plane” was seen orbiting above Washington DC minutes after a hijacked plane had crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

The E-6B Mercury can do the same job.

Built on the Boeing 707 airframe and using a B737 cockpit, this aircraft has a range of 5,500 miles, and accommodates 23 crew members. The U.S. Navy has a total fleet of sixteen E-6Bs. It can perform the so-called Looking Glass mission (mirroring the ground-based C3 center at Offutt AFB and relaying orders), it can talk to submarines trailing a 26,000 ft wire antenna, it can launch commands to ICBMs (InterContinental Ballistic Missiles) via Airborne Launch Control System, and can perform C3 (Command Control Communication) operations to forces operating in theatre.

For this reason they are often deployed abroad: they were monitored in Iraq and have been deployed to the UK in the past.

One E-6B mysteriously circled above the British islands during the Osama Bin Laden raid.

Hence, on Dec. 21, there’s nothing to worry about. Still, if you live near Andrews Air Force Base, and see the Air Force One leaving accompanied by some E-4Bs, maybe it’s time to run towards the nearest shelter…

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Documentary unveils Air Force One’s 9-11 journey across the U.S., secret trip into Baghdad and Obama’s first flight

Last year, I published a series of articles about the 9-11 for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, that you can find here.

One of them was about the Air Force One and its journey across the U.S. on that day (beginning with no escort during the attacks, 11 fighters when the airspace was completely free of airliners).

Recently, I’ve found on Youtube an interesting documentary about the world’s most famous and heavily defended airplane.

The National Geographic documentary brings you on board the highly modified Boeing 747, designated VC-25 by the U.S. Air Force, showing not only the cockpit, but also the quite interesting comms bay.

Interestingly, the documentary recalls the 9-11 trip, providing some more interesting details about the flight, including some radio calls recorded on that day as the Air Force One wandered in the U.S. airspace unable to properly deal with the crisis.

“There were phones, but I couldn’t invite people. There were meetings, but it was difficult to get in. The equipment was as good as it could have been”, George W Bush says.

In other words, the AF1 was unable to interconnect its onboard systems in such a way to give the President the possibility to talk with his top councerlors.

Then the documentary explains how the POTUS’s secret flight into Baghdad was flown on the Thanksgiving Day, 2003, when the VC-25 carrying President Bush, pretending to be a Gulfstream, landed into Iraq, unannounced and unexpected.

Finally, the video also includes  footage of the eight-day tour through six countries in the Middle East in 2008 as well as President Obama’s first flight on Air Force One.