A Boeing 7478 being built in the company39s Paine Field factory in Everett Washington Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

A Boeing 747-8 being built in the company's Paine Field factory in Everett, Washington.

Boeing's 747-8 Chosen for Next Air Force One

The current aircraft used by the U.S. president -- with its famous blue-and-white color scheme -- is also a 747, but a much older model that dates back more than two decades.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. military said Wednesday it has chosen Boeing's 747-8 aircraft for a new fleet of Air Force One presidential planes, opting against an airliner made by Airbus.

The current aircraft used by the U.S. president -- with its famous blue-and-white color scheme -- is also a 747, but a much older model that dates back more than two decades.

"The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States that, when fully missionized, meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission," U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in a statement.

Although the current 747-200s flown by the president had performed "exceptionally well" over the years, James said "it is time to upgrade."

The Pentagon had considered the Boeing airliner as well as the A380 made by European aerospace giant Airbus, though industry analysts had assumed Boeing would get the nod. 

Pentagon officials said they had selected the 747-8 without a formal competition and would proceed with discussions with Boeing to work out the details of a contract.

The president's plane has long been a symbol of American power and the setting for historic moments, including the somber 1963 ceremony when Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office on board -- hours after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The plane is often portrayed in Hollywood films and inspired a 1997 thriller titled "Air Force One," in which the U.S. president, played by Harrison Ford, must fight off hijackers.

Outfitted with secure communications equipment and other gear, Air Force One is designed to serve as a "mobile command center" and served that role briefly after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

It also features a suite for the commander-in-chief that includes a large office, a conference room as well as a medical area that can function as an operating room. 

The plane's galley can feed up to 100 people and there are additional quarters for senior aides, Secret Service agents and other staff.  

Air Force One is technically the radio call sign adopted by any aircraft with the president on board but it has become identified with certain planes reserved for the president's air travel. 

The name was created in the 1950s, when President Dwight Eisenhower's plane had the same call sign as a commercial airliner.

The current fleet of two presidential jumbo jets has been in service since 1991, going under the air force designation VC-25A.

The first of the new fleet will not be ready before 2018, so the current occupant of the White House, Barack Obama, will not have a chance to fly in the aircraft.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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