The Air Force One aircraft that President Obama currently uses are set to retire in a few years' time. Its two almost identical Boeing 747-200 jumbo jets are to be replaced by Boeing 747-8 jumbo jets, costing more than $3bn (£1.94bn). The new aircraft is expected to take off only after 2023.
The Pentagon will commission the planes in the coming weeks. The decision to acquire new planes for the US president was announced in January. "It's way overdue. You can hang new engines on it, you can cram all sorts of new technology on it, but it's still a very old airplane," Joseph W Hagin was quoted as saying by The New York Times. Hagin, during his term as White House deputy chief of staff under President George W Bush, had initiated a plan to acquire new planes but the idea was shelved due to the unstable US economy.
Measuring 250 feet, the new plane will be the longest in the world and will be capable of resisting nuclear blasts and deflecting heat-seeking missiles. It will have a range of about 7,800 miles with a mid-air refuelling system, besides all the latest technology. Coming with a greater wing span, new engines and avionics, it will also provide a better fuel economy.
Once the new planes are introduced, the current Air Force One aircraft, which have 4,000sq ft of room on three levels, will go to the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, where nine of the previous presidential aircraft are housed.
The present Air Force One aircraft, which first flew under then US president George H W Bush in 1990, were commissioned by Ronald Reagan. Currently, there are only 20 models of Boeing 747-200 jumbo jets, which mostly carry cargo in the developed world.
"People sometimes ask me what the biggest perk of being president is," US President Barack Obama told visitors at the White House last week. "No. 1 is the plane."