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Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
Ready for a makeover.
PRESIDENTIAL PERKS

An updated Air Force One could withstand the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear explosion

By Akshat Rathi

The Air Force One is not a plane. It’s a radio call sign for any air force plane carrying the US president. However, most people imagine it to be the blue and white Boeing that all US presidents happily wave from.

There are, in fact, two customized Boeing 747-200Bs that ferry the president. Each has about 4,000 square feet of space on three levels, which include an office, conference room, bedroom, and even an operating room in its medical suite. It’s a perk that few other world leaders have.

But the planes are getting old. They have been in service since 1990, and their spare parts now need to be custom built. According to the New York Times, Air Force One may soon be getting an upgrade.

Plans for a new presidential jet are already in the works: Designed on the frame of a Boeing 747-8, the remodeled Air Force One is expected to fly faster and longer than the current model. It will also be hardened against the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear explosion and should have defenses to dodge heat-seeking missiles.

The project is expected to cost about $3 billion (or more, because costs of such megaprojects are often underestimated) to build and won’t be ready till 2023.

The White House has been pushing to improve its presidential jet since George W. Bush was president. Today, American power may be declining (paywall), but at least one of its best-known symbols is getting an upgrade.