Technically, there isn't actually an airplane officially called 'Air Force One.' The name can refer to almost any plane, as long as the sitting president of the United States is aboard it. Exceptions to this include aircraft belonging to other branches of the United States military. For example, if the president is aboard a U.S Navy airplane, it becomes 'Navy One'.

But there are some planes that are frequently designated Air Force One. As it currently stands, two airplanes in particular are most associated with the designation. But work is being done on a new way forward.

A hypersonic Air Force One prototype could be ready as soon as 2025

The U.S Air Force is moving forward with a plan for a new kind of presidential transport. The military branch's Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate recently awarded two contracts, according to AVweb. Each contract was awarded with the goal of a presidential airplane that can move at hypersonic speeds.

Anything faster than the speed of sound is moving at supersonic speed, technically speaking. Something moving at hypersonic speed is traveling at five times the speed of sound. Often, it's referred to as 'Mach 5.'

CNN reports that a prototype of such an aircraft could be completed by 2025. Each of the private companies that were given the contracts has already been working on the technology.

They're also both based in the United States and both are very new companies.

The first company announced was Hermeus. Hermeus was founded in 2018. It's been developing a hypersonic commercial airplane. In theory, it could fly from the United States to the United Kingdom in about 90 minutes.

The second of the companies that have been announced is Exosonic, which was founded in 2019.

Exosonic is currently working on a supersonic twinjet for commercial flight. It's expected that the supersonic twinjet in question will be the basis of their hypersonic Air Force One design.

The current presidential fleet is made up of militarized Boeing 747 planes

Currently, the United States Air Force maintains three 747s specifically for Presidential Travel.

Two of them are Boeing VC-25s, military versions of the 747-200B. The third is the so-called 'Doomsday Plane.. Designed to specifically be used during a large-scale conflict or disaster, such as a nuclear event. The U.S government has also bought two 747-8 models, the largest and most recent variation of the Boeing 747 design. In theory, they will replace the older VC-25s. It's unclear how the hypersonic contracts might affect this plan.

The Air Force also maintains a Boeing C-32, a militarized version of the Boeing 757. It's most often used for moving the vice president, first lady and secretary of state of the United States. When the vice president is aboard (but not the president), it officially becomes known as 'Air Force Two.'

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