The Air Force announced late Friday the purchase of two existing Boeing 747-8 jumbo jetliners once destined to a now defunct Russian airline that will become the next generation Air Force One aircraft in the presidential fleet.
A purchase price for the two jets in storage in California was not released. A Boeing spokeswoman in a statement, however, said the the two jetliners were bought at “a substantial discount.”
“In buying these readily available U.S.-built new airplanes, the Air Force has taken advantage of a unique opportunity to get a great airplane at a great price for the American taxpayer,” a company statement said.
Boeing has listed the price of a commercial the 747-8 model at $386.8 million, The Associated Press reported.
The planes, assembled in 2015, were slated for the now defunct Russian airline Transaero, Boeing spokesman Caroline Hutcheson said Friday.
The airline declared bankruptcy, and the aircraft were never delivered, remaining in storage.
President Donald Trump brought increased scrutiny to the Air Force One replacement program weeks after his election and before his inauguration when he bemoaned the price and threatened to cancel the program because of costs.
After his complaints, the Air Force installed a two-star general in charge of the program, which is managed at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“President-elect Trump made Air Force One a symbol of his commitment to getting better deals for taxpayers, so the Air Force did all it could to cut the cost of developing a next-generation plane,” Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute said in an email. “… What this episode shows is that few strong words from the President can go a long way in getting the Pentagon and contractors to think more imaginatively about how to do business.”
The Air Force and Boeing would not release the purchase price because of commercial price competition sensitives, the two said. But the Air Force indicated it would release a total price later, which will include additional program costs, said Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
The jets will require air-to-air refueling capability and protection from electromagnetic pulse effects during a nuclear blast, among other modifications, Thompson said.
Stefanek said it’s possible because the jets are already assembled they could be delivered to the presidential airlifter fleet before the expected delivery in 2024. Modifications were set to begin in 2019.
The two jets will replace two existing Boeing 747-200 aircraft, designated as VC-25 in the Air Force, which have been in service for nearly three decades.