Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Why Does Air Force One Cost $3.2 Billion Dollars?

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It's the most recognizable aircraft in the world, a Boeing 747 jet with the iconic blue

and white paint scheme, seal of the President of the United States displayed prominently

on its sides.

Air Force One as it is commonly known is a symbol of the American President and the power

of that office, and has visited every continent except for Antarctica.

It is currently however an aging plane, with it and its backup twin having been in service

since 1987- quite the lifespan for a modern airplane.

Now the United States finds itself in need of a new Air Force One, and even before he

officially took office now-President Donald Trump famously protested the staggering price

tag of $3.2 billion dollars over twitter for Boeing's contract to produce two replacements

of the presidential plane.

That single errant tweet ended up costing Boeing millions as its stock plummeted due

to uncertainty over the future of a contract that had been in place since 2015.

Three point two billion dollars is quite the sum, and for months President Trump claimed

the figure was absurd and that he would get a better deal.

Ultimately he would quietly authorize the original contract with Boeing, and in fact

the total sum would increase to nearly four billion dollars for the two planes.

But why in the world are these two planes so expensive?

The first thing to consider is that the total cost of the Air Force One upgrade program

is not for the planes themselves, but rather for research and development, procurement

of the actual aircraft, and for all of the many high tech systems on board.

This price tag includes upgrades to just about every facet of the aircraft, and most of the

money sink is not on the plane itself, but rather the multitude of extremely high tech

and classified hardware that rides inside it.

A large part of the price tag goes towards the defensive systems aboard Air Force One

meant to keep the President of the United States safe while in the air.

Large jets such as the Boeing 747 that Air Force One's unique air frame is based on can

be quite easy targets for enemy fighters, but Air Force One has many tricks up its sleeve

to ward off an air attack.

Firstly, a hostile interception of Air Force One is already an extremely improbable event.

Its flight plan is calculated well in advance of any Presidential visit, and is always designed

so that friendly air assets are never far away.

Typically Air Force One's flight path will be shared with friendly nations, whom will

have air assets of their own on standby in case they need to respond to an emergency

and lend their assistance.

Any hostile nation wishing to take a shot at the big plane will first have to get through

an emergency response force of allied fighters.

If no friendly air forces are available though, then carrier battle groups can be propositioned

along Air Force One's flight route in order to lend air support if needed.

Given the global reach of America's navy and air force, air support is never far from the


If a hostile plane manages to avoid being intercepted though, Air Force One has several

defensive measures to protect itself.

Although these measures are kept highly classified, some are well known, others can be speculated

on, and others can be guessed at from what can be seen physically on the plane's body.

It's known for instance that Air Force One can defend itself against attack with chaff

and flares.

Chaff is nothing more than highly radar reflective material packed into a canister which is then

shot out the back of the aircraft.

The canister explodes, filling the sky with radar reflective material which can confuse

any weapon system using radar to lock on to the plane.

Flares on the other hand are designed to counter heat-seeking warheads on enemy missiles, and

work by being expelled from the body of the aircraft and burning at extremely high temperatures.

The missile's heat-seeking warhead then changes targets from the plane's hot engines to the

brightly burning chaff, exploding harmlessly away from the aircraft.

Modern anti-aircraft missile systems however are getting smarter all the time.

So too though are Air Force One's defenses.

Missile launch warning receivers are located on the tail, and likely on the front of the

plane as well, and can track missiles in flight by identifying the ultraviolet exhaust signature

that the missile's rocket motor puts out.

This system is already in operation in many special-forces support aircraft, though their

hefty price tag for now prevents them from being widely adopted by the rest of the US's

air fleet.

These high tech trackers though can accurately feed targeting data to a rumored defensive

measure of Air Force One- a high-energy laser which can heat the head of an incoming missile

and detonate it in-flight.

Air Force One is also equipped with an AN/AAQ-24 Nemesis Directional Infra-Red Counter Measures

system, which fires flashes of concentrated infrared energy at incoming missiles in order

to damage or confuse the targeting optics of a missile.

This is similar to the Matador IR countermeasure system that is installed on the tail and behind

all four engines, and also emits infrared pulses at incoming missiles in order to prevent

attack by heat-seeking missiles.

Long rumored, but never confirmed, is a belly-mounted anti-air missile system with limited capacity

to destroy incoming enemy aircraft.

The aircraft is also equipped with several electronic countermeasures meant to jam or

spoof enemy radar.

Pulse emitters on the aircraft can confuse enemy radar by sending back a radar pulse

that either blocks the receiver outright or mirrors the return frequency, confusing the

radar operator as to the true distance, size, and elevation of a target.

As with most electronic warfare aircraft, Air Force One can spot jam in order to completely

block out one radar frequency and completely blind a radar, though modern radars are able

to operate on multiple frequencies and are thus resistant to this technique.

The plane however can also jam multiple frequencies at once, although the more frequencies it

tries to jam the less effective the jamming is.

The plane however can also focus all of its power on jamming a single radar at all frequencies,

although this leaves it vulnerable to other radars that it cannot respond to.

Given that Air Force One is never far from friendly forces, this shouldn't be too big

a concern.

Another major part of the expense of Air Force One is its communications systems.

The President of the United States is the head of the most powerful military force in

the world, and needs to be able to communicate with every single element of that military

no matter where in the world he is flying.

Designed as a flying White House, the plane's communications gear allows the President to

wage a full-blown war if need be from the air, and he can even order America's fleet

of deeply submerged ballistic missile submarines to launch their nuclear weapons against an


A big part of the almost $4 billion price tag is going towards upgrading communications


During the September 11th attacks, President Bush remained airborne for most of the day,

and was in constant communication with the Pentagon and civilian leadership.

On numerous occasions however he experienced bad connections and dropped calls, and now

a big investment has been made to ensure that this never happens again.

Designed to operate even in a nuclear environment, the plane is shielded against the electromagnetic

pulses released by nuclear detonations.

Normally an EMP blast would destroy electronics across an area even greater than that directly

affected by the nuclear explosion, yet Air Force One is capable of withstanding such

a blast and keeping the President connected to the rest of the military.

A recent news report on the expense of Air Force One highlighted that the refrigerators

alone cost $12 million dollars, causing much uproar amongst the taxpayers who are footing

the bill for these aircraft.

Yet as it turned out, these refrigerators cost so much because they were designed to

in essence be the most reliable in the world.

Because Air Force One may need to operate for weeks at a time in case of extreme national

emergency, the plane keeps three thousand meals on board at all times, and this requires

a lot of fridge space.

The refrigerator must not fail, or else all that food would spoil and leave the President

and his entourage with nothing to eat in case of disaster.

Another major expense of Air Force One though is the presence of a full-blown operating

theater inside the aircraft.

Just in case the American president ever suffers a major health event, rather than be treated

at a local hospital he will be rushed to Air Force One, which will immediately depart and

set course for the nearest American military base or airport.

While in flight, a doctor- which is always aboard the aircraft- can convert one of the

meeting rooms into an operating theater and perform any number of emergency medical procedures.

The new model Air Force Ones are also rumored to be equipped with tele-medicine units, which

would allow surgeons anywhere in the world to operate directly on the President via secure

connection and using robotic appendages on the aircraft itself.

New engines round out the list of upgrades to the new Air Force Ones under design by

Boeing right now.

These new engines offer much improved performance, and have increased the range of the aircraft

by almost one thousand miles, from 6,735 nautical miles to 7,730 nautical miles.

That would allow the big plane to fly almost a third of the way around the world in just

a single tank of gas.

Though not officially confirmed, the new Air Force Ones are also believed to be capable

of mid-air refueling, much like the current models are.

In essence, this makes their range almost unlimited as long as a friendly tanker is

available to top the big plane up.

Being one of the best serviced aircraft in the world, and with engines that have to withstand

reliability tests far more strenuous than normal aircraft, Air Force One is believed

to be able to fly for at least a week non-stop without needing maintenance.

The new engines aren't just more fuel efficient though, they're also much greener than the

current engines- which is good news because air travel is a significant source of pollution.

Raw power hasn't been compromised for fuel efficiency or reduced greenhouse gas emissions

though, as the new Air Force One's speed is known to be faster than the current Air Force

One, which has been recorded flying at mach .85.

Just how much faster though is unknown, although some speculate that it will be capable of

breaking the sound barrier which would be quite a feat for such a massive aircraft.

Operating the new Air Force Ones won't come cheap though, and there's no expected decrease

in the average $200,000 per flight hour price tag that comes from flying the planes.

That massive cost doesn't just come from jet fuel, but from the inevitable maintenance

and repair needed to keep these planes in tip top shape.

While the US military maintains all of its aircraft in the best possible shape at all

times to ensure their reliability, no single other aircraft- except for perhaps its fleet

of B-2 bombers- are so well taken care of.

Given that the President may need to take to the air and command the United States'

military in the midst of a nuclear war, it's no surprise that so much time and money is

spent on maintaining the two presidential planes.

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