Pentagon Spending $34M to Make Presidential Jets More Posh

Air Force One refuels at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on President Donald Trump's return to Washington D.C. from the North Korea summit, June 12, 2018. Air Force One refuels at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on President Donald Trump's return to Washington D.C. from the North Korea summit, June 12, 2018. Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase/Air Force

Over the past year, the Pentagon has awarded more than $34 million to install luxurious interiors in two of President Trump’s back-up Air Force One aircraft, which are also often used by the first lady and cabinet secretaries, according to U.S. Defense Department documents.

The Boeing 757s require “an appearance more commensurate with [the] presidential section of the VC-25A,” the Pentagon said in a contract announcement this week. VC-25A is the military designation for the two Boeing 747s that serve as Air Force One.

On Tuesday, the Air Force gave Boeing a $16 million contract to start installing “upgraded interior elements” on one of the military’s four 757s, which it calls C-32s. Last year, the service spent nearly $18 million installing a new interior on a different C-32. This week’s contract was first reported by the Washington Examiner.

The Aug. 14 announcement says the contract covers “upgraded interior elements; refurbished interior elements; painting and cleaning; replacing double-seat configuration with triple-seat configuration, aft of Door 3.”

The upgrades also include new carpets and new seats in the VIP cabin, according to two sources with knowledge of the project. 


U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets staff and press aboard a U.S. Air Force C-32 aircraft on May 15, 2017.U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets staff and press aboard a U.S. Air Force C-32 aircraft on May 15, 2017.


Funding for these upgrades was not sought in any of the Air Force’s last five budget requests to Congress. In those requests, the service asked for money to upgrade the planes’ classified satellite communications equipment, navigation system, and nitrogen generation systems.

Boeing deferred comment to the Air Force, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The twin-engine C-32s are often used by the vice president, first lady, and secretary of state — and the president himself, when an airport runway is too short for the much larger Boeing 747 that usually serves as Air Force One. Just this month, Trump took three trips on a C-32. The defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also occasionally fly in these planes, which are based at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Inside, the C-32s are similar to commercial 757 airliners, with some distinct differences. The forward section, where an airline might install first-class seats, is outfitted with computers and electronics equipment that the crew uses to stay in contact with military commands.

Behind that is the VIP cabin, furnished with a couch that unfolds into a bed, and a table with large captain’s seats on each side. Further aft is a section for senior staffers, with large seats similar to domestic first-class cabins, and conference tables. Crew and the press sit in the back in smaller, traditional commercial airline seats. The bathrooms are identical to those commercial versions of the plane.

The C-32s are expected to be retired in 2023, when the fleet turns 25 years old, according to Air Force budget documents. Last year, the Pentagon launched a program to replace the planes.

The president owns his own highly customized Boeing 757 complete with a bedroom and many gold fixtures.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. aboard a C-32Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, works in his cabin aboard a C-32 aircraft on Aug. 19, 2017. (U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

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