New refrigerators on Air Force One to cost US$24 million: Reports

The US Air Force awarded Boeing a US$23.6 million contract in December to replace two of the five "cold chiller units" aboard the aircraft used by US President Trump.

WASHINGTON - The United States president's plane Air Force One is set to receive an upgrade that will include new refrigerators expected to cost American taxpayers nearly US$24 million (S$31.4 million), according to media reports.

The US Air Force awarded Boeing a US$23.6 million contract in December to replace two of the five "cold chiller units" aboard the aircraft used by President Donald Trump, CNN reported.

"The current rear lower lobe cold chiller units being replaced are the original commercial equipment delivered with the aircraft in 1990. The units were based on the technology at the time and designed for short-term food storage," Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told CNN.

"Although serviced on a regular basis, reliability has decreased with failures increasing, especially in hot/humid environments. The units are unable to effectively support mission requirements for food storage," she said.

According to military specifications, Air Force One must be equipped with a refrigeration capacity to handle 3,000 meals, Guardian reported.

That's enough to feed the president and 50 of his closest friends three meals a day for three weeks, it added.

Due to the fact that Air Force One is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, many of its components require unique testing by the Federal Aviation Administration and the cost of the testing is included in the price of the component, in this case refrigerators, CNN reported.

The US$24 million contract will cover the costs of engineering support services for the new chillers - including prototype design, manufacturing and installation, according to the contract.

"The units and associated aircraft structural modifications are being specially designed to provide nearly 70 cubic feet of temperature-controlled (refrigeration/freezer) storage to support on-board personnel for an extended period of time, without having to restock while abroad," Stefanek told CNN.

The US$24 million price tag, upon which Boeing declined to comment, amounts to enough taxpayer money to fund an estimated eight weekends for the president at Mar-a-Lago, which Trump visited 11 times in his first year as president, Guardian said.

As president-elect, Trump trashed Boeing's stock by attacking on Twitter the high-priced Air Force One programme.

"Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion," Trump tweeted. "Cancel order!"

It is not clear where Trump got the US$4 billion figure; at the time Boeing had a US$170 million contract to begin work on the next Air Force One.

The term "Air Force One" refers not to any particular aircraft but to any plane carrying the president. The list price for the 747 airplanes outfitted as Air Force One is about US$350 million, but customising the planes costs much more, according to the Guardian.

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