South Korea’s new presidential jet entered service Saturday for a three-nation trip by President Moon Jae-in to the Middle East. Code One is the name of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) aircraft which carries the President of South Korea. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the new presidential plane, a Boeing 747-8i, was placed in commission Thursday. Moon and his entourage flew aboard the new Code One for an eight-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In 2020, the government signed a five-year contract with Korean Air Lines Co. to lease the new plane. Under the 300 billion won (US$252.7 million) deal, Korean Air Lines provides pilots, crew members, mechanics, as well as a back-up plane of the same type for the president’s overseas trips. The 213-seat plane was equipped with various security and communication devices, as well as hardware to improve its defense against outside attacks, such as missiles, while new engines increased its cruising speed and maximum total range.
The Boeing 747-8 is a wide-body airliner developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the largest variant of the 747. The stretched 747 Advanced was launched as the 747-8 on November 14, 2005, for a market forecast of 300 aircraft. The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the U.S. when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission. In January 2015, the U.S. Air Force announced the selection of the 747-8 to replace the aging VC-25A for presidential transport.
On 27 February 2018, the White House announced a US$3.9 billion agreement with Boeing to modify the two unsold 747-8s to replace the current VC-25As. The new aircraft will be designated VC-25B. After the commercial interiors, engines, APUs and other components were removed from the airframes, modification work started in March 2020 at the USAF’s Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. The first phase of the work involved structural modifications to install the internal airstairs. The 747s are undergoing modification work at the Boeing’s San Antonio facility in 2021 and they are expected to enter service in 2024.