The New Air Force One Debut has been Postponed to March 2026

The New Air Force One Debut has been Postponed to March 2026

The highly anticipated debut of the next Air Force One, the Boeing VC-25B, has been hit with another setback. The first flight of the customized 747, originally planned for November 2024, has been postponed by over a year to March 2026.

This latest delay adds to a string of challenges that have plagued the program since its inception. Boeing, the developer of the VC-25B, has reportedly suffered losses exceeding $2.4 billion due to issues ranging from design flaws to supplier bankruptcy and labor problems.

Air force one
Photo by redlegsfan21 | Flickr

The initial timeline envisioned delivery of the first aircraft by September 2024, with a second to follow in February 2025. However, these projections were revised in 2022, pushing deliveries back by 2-3 years. Even this revised schedule now seems optimistic.

Ground subsystem testing, crucial before the inaugural flight, was initially slated for October 2023 but has been repeatedly postponed. As per the latest update, this testing is unlikely to occur before July 2025.

Boeing has faced significant labor-related hurdles. A 2023 discovery that roughly 250 program personnel lacked proper security clearances prompted a Department of Defense investigation. Additionally, workforce attrition necessitated a hiring surge for Boeing.

These setbacks make it highly probable that the delivery date will be further extended. The United States Air Force (USAF) acknowledges this possibility, with a spokesperson stating that Boeing continues to refine the project schedule, potentially impacting all previously announced dates. An update is expected later this summer.

The fixed-price contract for the VC-25B, signed during the Trump administration, has also been scrutinized. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has conceded that this agreement, in retrospect, might not have been the most prudent decision.

Air force one
Photo by U.S. Air Force

The VC-25B, built from Boeing 747-8I airframes originally intended for a defunct airline, will boast a range of advanced features to ensure the safety and security of the President. While specific details remain classified, known features include:

  • Cutting-edge defensive systems like laser jamming and radar warning technology.
  • Enhanced range exceeding 7,000 nautical miles.
  • A spacious interior exceeding 4,000 square feet.
  • Dedicated spaces for work, medical needs, conferences, and media briefings.

The delay of the VC-25B signifies the complexities involved in creating a state-of-the-art aircraft specifically designed for the President of the United States. While the wait continues, the advanced features and capabilities promised by the VC-25B suggest it will be a worthy successor to the current Air Force One.

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