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Boeing wins $600 million contract to design lower-cost Air Force One

In this Feb. 17, 2017, file photo, military personnel watch as Air Force One, with President Donald Trump, aboard prepares to depart at Andrews Air Force Base in Md. (AP photo)

WASHINGTON - The Air Force has awarded a $600 million contract to the Boeing Co. to begin designing the next Air Force One while at the same time meeting President Trump's demands to lower the cost of the aircraft.

"The contract modification includes the design to incorporate a mission communication system, electrical power upgrades, a medical facility, an executive interior, a self-defense system and autonomous ground operations capabilities into two commercial Boeing 747-8s," says a Boeing news release about the contract award.

This new aircraft will replace two aging presidential support aircraft.

A program called the Presidential Airlift Recapitalization will work with Boeing to "investigate saving opportunities during preliminary design efforts," says the news release. All savings opportunities will be reviewed to ensure they do not degrade mission capabilities.

"The Air Force is committed to working with Boeing to ensure the (design) program meets presidential airlift mission requirements, as well as the president's affordability expectations," the news release says.

The Air Force also is working with Boeing on a follow-on contract modification that will continue the program through detailed design, aircraft modification, test, and delivery of two presidential mission-ready aircraft. The contract modification is scheduled to be awarded in summer 2018.

In December, Donald Trump tweeted that costs for the new Air Force One are "out of control" and threatened to cancel the program.

Then in January, the head of Boeing said he and Trump made progress on reducing the cost of the next generation of Air Force One planes in their second meeting since Trump slammed the program on Twitter.

"We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices," Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said at the time.

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