US Secretary of Defense Mattis has ordered a complete review of both the F-35 program and the program to replace the current Boeing VC-25 aircraft in their role as Air Force One. The review of the F-35 is to include a comparison with the F-18 Super Hornet.
The announcement should come as no surprise, given president Trumps recent criticism of both programs. Even before his inauguration on 20 January, Trump said F-35 costs are out of control while at the same time he asked Boeing to come up with the F-18 Super Hornet as a reasonably priced alternative.
For the F-35, a recent DOT&E report by the Pentagon’s own watchdog is an excellent starting point. That report mentions plenty of delays in F-35 development and testing.
It remains uncertain what the outcome of both reviews could be. Chances of the program being cancelled are close to zero given the program’s strategic and economic importance. However, the naval F-35C version may be under threat. The DOT&E mentions persistent problems in this version specifically.
In a response, Lockheed Martin said it ‘stands ready’ to support the review. Earlier, both Lockheed Martin and Boeing promised to keep costs down. This fresh review will put even more pressure on both manufacturers to actually make up on that promise.
May we present to you: the new Air Force One. On Wednesday 28 January, the US Air Force said it has officially selected the Boeing 747-8 as the next presidential mode of air transport. A surprise the announcement is not, good news for Boeing it is.
Three 747-8s will replace two VC-25As (heavily modified Boeing 747-200s) that currently serve as Air Force One with Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The two well traveled VC-25s have been in service since the early nineties and are expected to reach their planned flight hour service life in 2017.
The final contract has yet to be awarded to Boeing. The news is welcome to the company anyway, as the 747-8 showed itself not a great seller so far. The type was announced in 2005, first flew in 2010 and since has attracted only 119 orders, mostly for freighter versions. Boeing recently said it was slowing down production time of the type.
Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) versions of the 747-8 have found their way to rich middle eastern countries. The Airbus A380 was named as an Air Force One candidate, but only in a race that never really was.
We are pretty sure a 24-year old German had a hell of a time when he boarded the German equivalent of ‘Air Force 1’ at Köln-Bonn airport recently. In fact, he boarded the Airbus A319 on his own while the aircraft was parked during the evening hours. He managed to climb onto the wing using one of the two engines as stairs, opened an emergency exit and threw himself a little party. In his underpants, of course.
The 24-year old then also took the opportunity to empty some emergency fire equipment and – why not – activate an emergency slide. That alone could have been enough to ring some alarm bells at the airport, but actually only after this unexpected visitor went into the cockpit and threw around some switches, alarm bells really started ringing with airport staff.
The Polizei then invited themselves to the party and brought along one of their not-so-friendly dogs. After just two bites did the 24-year old surrender himself. According to a police spokesman, the young German took XTC before going on his adventure. No surprise there, really. Good trip, but straight to prison.
The Airbus was thoroughly checked after the incident and even a testflight was performed. The German Air Force has ordered extra security to guard the airplane, that is frequently used by chancellor Angela Merkel and other German government officials.