Air Force One That Trump do That

I’m starting to get the idea that for the next eight or so years, a lot of what many of us are going to write will have something to do with what Donald Trump tweeted. Granted, since that has been the case for much of the last year, we have gotten comfortable with it.

However, when Trump said he would kill the deal for an updated Air Force One — which would cost billions and still be based on the now-obsolete 747 — it hit me that we’ve completely lost track of what Air Force One should be. It should be a physical representation of the United States’ capability as it exists today — not a homage to the Ronald Reagan White House, which first introduced the 747 as the plane of presidents.

I’ll share my thoughts on why the next Air Force One should showcase innovation, agility and technology, rather than how the U.S. can’t spend taxpayer money wisely, and how incredibly long it takes the U.S. bureaucracy to get anything done. I’ll close with my product of the week, the Lenovo Book, which is likely the most innovative laptop in the world. It’s an innovation showcase itself and breaks the mold on notebook design.

 

Air Force One

Air Force One today is a bit of a disappointment. Donald Trump’s own plane is more distinctive, more advanced, more efficient, and likely far more comfortable to fly in. It’s newer, so it likely is also a better representation of what the U.S. can do than the official presidential plane.

The plane is hardened against nuclear attack — something very likely in Reagan’s time but not at all very likely now — but it is not hardened well against cyberattack. Given that it uses really old tech, that currently may not be a huge problem.

When it was created, it needed to defend against a variety of state-based attacks, because small groups couldn’t afford jet fighters or good ground-to-air missiles. Now it needs to defend against weaponized drones and lots of relatively current generation U.S. ordnance that has found its way into the hands of relatively small and independent anti-U.S. Organizations, thanks to the mess the Middle East has become.

Back in Reagan’s time, there was a relatively low likelihood that an airport rapidly could fall to a hostile mob, blocking and holding a plane and its occupants hostage. Now, with social media, huge numbers of people can be mobilized very quickly, both domestically and abroad. The president-elect has a tendency to offend large numbers of people, suddenly making such an event almost certain. This means the plane needs capabilities like vertical take-off and landing, so it can get out of Dodge even if the runway is compromised.

Add this up, and the result is that a big, slow-moving, largely obsolete plane would seem to be the last kind of plane you’d want to give a current-generation president. The 747 was advanced in the 1960s, and the new plane is expected to remain in service till the 2050s. Can you imagine even flying yourself in a plane with technology 90 years old, let alone putting the most powerful leader in the world in one?

 

What Air Force One Should Be

Air Force One should be a symbol of U.S. capability. Rather than lagging the U.S. aerospace industry by more than 50 years, it should lead it — or at least be up to date. In effect, it is the flying brand for the company, and it currently can’t even drop off the president without help, which China showcased by embarrassing President Obama a few weeks back.

It should be designed to protect the president from today’s threats, not the threats of the cold war. It needs to be fast, agile, and better able to elude attacks than anything conceived 50 years ago. It needs to be a showcase for U.S. technology that helps sell the idea of buying from the U.S. In other words, rather than using a largely obsolete airframe, it should use one that a U.S. plane builder would be proud to sell — more a flagship product and less an obsolete one.