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Senators Express Concern Over Decision to Exclude Aerial Refueling for Future Air Force One

Senate lawmakers have raised concerns over the lack of aerial refueling capability in the next presidential aircraft, DoD Buzz reported Tuesday.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) asked Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the issue at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

“I think that was a decision that was not made by the — by the Air Force, but made by the White House, and I think it had to do with the fiscal constraints on the program,” Dunford said.

The service branch and the White House had been in talks to reduce the cost of the next Air Force One planes and forgoing the aircraft’s inflight refueling function was one of the cost-cutting measures they plan to implement.

Breaking Defense also reported that the Air Force’s budget request for fiscal 2018 shows that the service branch will need approximately $3.2 billion in funds from 2018 through 2022 to replace the current fleet of VC-25 planes.

“We may need to revisit that decision,” Cotton said of the White House’s decision to exclude the aerial refueling capability for the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program.

The hearing came weeks after the Air Force awarded Boeing a potential $600 million contract modification to conduct preliminary design work to convert a pair of 747-8 aircraft into presidential planes.

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