Congress questions why new Air Force One desn't feature aerial refueling capability


By Dario Leone
Sep 28 2017
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The decision to omit aerial refueling capability from the new Air Force One was taken by the White House and not the USAF

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on why the Pentagon decided to omit aerial refueling capability from the new Air Force One – based on the Boeing 747-8.

Dunford explained to Sen. Tom Cotton that the decision was taken by the White House and not the U.S. Air Force (USAF). He cited fiscal constrains of the program for the decision.

He added, “That will certainly be a limiting factor, and we’ll have to plan accordingly.”

The next Air Force One — or the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as PAR — is not scheduled to have mid-air refueling, DefenseOne first reported earlier this month. In fac officials have argued that the capability, though useful, adds undue cost. Furthermore, presidents have never used the capability in flight; not even former President George W. Bush, whose aircraft loitered in the air for eight hours after 9/11 attacks.

Noteworthy as reported by the latest comments on PAR come weeks after the USAF awarded Boeing Co. the next contract — just shy of $600 million — for the program.

As we have reported in August, the Air Force cemented a deal to buy two commercial 747-8 aircraft for the program from Boeing.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Boeing VC-25A, 89th Airlift Wing, SAM 29000 “Air Force One”

Boeing in January 2016 first began work on the new Air Force One for risk-reduction activities, signaling major progress on the program since the company won the contract in January 2015.

However the next Air Force One entered the hot seat in December when then-president elect Donald Trump lambasted the program for being overpriced.

Trump on Dec. 6 tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania.

“I don’t want a plane to fly around in that costs $4.2 billion, believe me … not going to happen … and I didn’t order it, please, remember this,” he said. “But we’re going to work with Boeing, we’re going to cut the price way down — way, way down.”

Boeing has so far received $170 million in development funding to study the technical requirements of the future Air Force One aircraft, the company has said.

Congress questions why new Air Force One desn't feature aerial refueling capability

However Cotton said on Tuesday that lawmakers and military leaders will have to revisit the refueling decision in the future.

Top image: Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace / U.S. Air Force  Bottom image: Boeing_747-8F_render_in_flight.jpg: *Boeing_747-8_N747EX_First_Flight_2-8-2010.jpg: moonmPilved.lennukiaknast.jpg: Ave Maria Mõistlikderivative work: Altair78 (talk)derivative work: Altair78 (Boeing_747-8F_render_in_flight.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons;

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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