(Updates with Boeing's response, Boeing's business ties to China.)
(CNSNews.com) - Shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, "Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!"
A short time later, speaking to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower, the president-elect said of the Boeing contract, "I think it's ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money."
It's not clear where Trump got the $4-billion cost estimate.
According to The Wall Street Journal, "The Air Force earmarked $1.65 billion between 2015 and 2019 for two replacement jets, but hasn’t detailed the expected cost or delivery dates for the replacement planes."
Almost three hours after Trump's tweet, a Boeing spokesman said, "We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer."
The U.S. Air Force announced in January 2015 that the Boeing 747-8 would serve as the next presidential aircraft.
“The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James said at the time. She noted that the Boeing 747-8, manufactured in Washington State, is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States that meets the security and technological requirements for what is essentially a flying White House.
The current fleet of presidential aircraft is nearing the end of its 30-year service life. "It is time to upgrade," James said in 2015.
President Obama's FY 2017 budget funds the development and procurement of a program to replace the current Air Force One fleet.
This past July, the Air Force awarded a contract modification to Boeing as part of a "deliberate process to control program risk and life cycle costs," according to the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program, which is part of the U.S. Air Force.
PAR said the Air Force would award a separate contract for the bulk of the acquisition program "after the results of the risk reduction activities are known."
Two months later, in September, the Air Force officially requested a proposal from Boeing to complete detailed design, modification, test and fielding of two aircraft that will provide "presidential worldwide airlift support starting in the 2024 timeframe."
Dennis A. Muilenburg, Boeing's chairman, president and chief executive officer, is a member of the board of directors of the U.S.-China Business Council, a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of more than 200 American companies that do business with China.
Boeing noted in September that more than 50 percent of the commercial jetliners operating in China are Boeing airplanes. And it says more than 9,000 Boeing airplanes worldwide are using parts and assemblies built in China, but it's not clear if part of the new Air Force One fleet would be made in China.
"China has a role in every one of Boeing’s commercial airplane models: the 737, 747, 767, 777 and the newest and most innovative airplane, the 787 Dreamliner," the news release said.
"Boeing activity in China contributes $800 million to $1 billion annually in direct support of China’s economy."
Boeing said China builds horizontal stabilizers, vertical fins, the aft tail section, doors, wing panels, wire harnesses and other parts on the Next-Generation 737. China also produces the rudder for the 737 MAX; and it contributes trailing edge wing ribs, horizontal stabilizers, vertical fins, ailerons, spoilers and inboard flaps for the 747-8, a modified version of which may be used by future presidents.
In addition, China builds the rudder, wing-to-body fairing panels, leading edge and panels for the vertical fin, and other composite parts for the Boeing 787.
The news release said China is the first conversion location for the new 747-400 Boeing Converted Freighter. Parts and assemblies are built in China; conversion, test and certification performed in China; and airplanes are delivered from Xiamen, China. Boeing said it partners with more than 35 major Chinese firms as direct contractors on this production and also with hundreds of Chinese subcontractors.
Boeing successfully promoted U.S. approval of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and congressional approval of normal trade relations between the United
States and China.
In September 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first state visit to the United States, he landed first in Seattle, where he spoke to a dinner sponsored in part by the U.S.-China Business Council.
He also visited the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington before heading to Washington, D.C.