Air Force One is Getting Wi-Fi
Photo by Paul Thompson
The U.S. presidential jet known as “Air Force One” is inarguably the most recognizable plane in the world. It carries almost every creature comfort one would find on terra firm — almost, because it was missing Wi-Fi. But the president will soon be able to stream “House of Cards” to his or her airborne Oval Office.
Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat was awarded the contract from The United States Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), with a face value of $73.2 million. ViaSat also provides Wi-Fi for airlines, including American, JetBlue and Virgin America.
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“ViaSat's high-capacity global in-flight internet service ensures executive and government leaders and their teams can stay connected, informed and productive, maximizing the effectiveness of time in-flight with ‘Situation Room and Command Center’ connectivity in the sky,” said Ken Peterman, senior vice president and general manager, Government Systems Division, ViaSat. “This award is a significant accomplishment and we are proud to be delivering remarkably fast data speeds and an abundance of capacity to support the in-flight communications needs of our government’s senior leadership on Air Force One and other special air mission aircraft.”
The equipment provided by ViaSat is a hybrid satellite antenna that allows airborne network switching between Ka-band and Ku-band, allowing the aircraft to stay connected globally.
Not only will the system be capable of typical civilian flight use, it will also be able to stream full-motion high-definition video for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), en-route Command and Control (C2) and Search and Rescue (S&R) missions; maintain two-way communications through HD video conference calling or voice over internet protocol (VOIP) calls; access real-time intelligence and other location-based, live-sensor data for critical decision-making and more.
The Air Force has already announced the selection of the Boeing 747-8i as the successor for the current VC-25 (747-200) fleet, which were built in 1987 and have been serving presidents since George H.W. Bush. in 1990. The replacement planes will probably be the last to roll off the Boeing assembly line in Everett, Washington, in about two years. After that, the modifications will begin and be thoroughly tested before being put into service, so we’re looking probably five or six years before seeing these planes completed.
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