Air Force One plays a very important role by providing air transport for the President of the United States.
So, you might think that due to its importance and by proxy of carrying the U.S. President, Air Force One would have weapons to defend itself in case of an attack.
In fact, Air Force One isn’t equipped with any weapons, but is designed to withstand an air attack due to its advanced avionics and defenses.
Air Force One is even designed to ward off electromagnetic pulses in case of a nuclear strike.
While the plane’s advanced avionics and defenses are classified, what we do know is that Air Force One is outfitted with electronic counter measures (ECM) to jam enemy radar.
The plane can also throw heat-seeking missiles off course by ejecting flares.
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What Happens if Air Force One is Attacked?
If Air Force One is attacked, the plane is well-equipped to defend itself from the most common attacks through its defense systems that include jamming enemy radar and ejecting flares to throw out heat-seeking missiles.
Armed fighter jets will also help to protect Air Force One if it comes under attack.
Fighter Jets Might Come to the Rescue
Air Force One generally isn’t escorted by fighter jets, but it has been before.
After 9/11, Air Force One was escorted by fighter jets almost all day.
It’s a rare occurrence because it is considered too dangerous to fly fighter jets in the airspace that commercial planes fly at, which is 35,000 feet, compared to the altitude of between 45,000 – 51,000 feet that fighter jets normally fly at.
During times of crisis, Air Force One can be escorted by armed jet fighters, which can attack potential threats if necessary.
Air Force One Can Refuel in the Air
As Air Force One can be refueled midair, technically it can stay in the air indefinitely.
However, in practice this would not work, as there are several limitations that would prevent this, including running out of drinking water, and the aircraft engine oil needing to be changed every 50 hours for safety purposes.
Air Force One can realistically stay in the air for 2-3 days despite its capability of midair refueling.
Without refueling, Air Force One can stay in the air for about 15 hours.
This is if we go by what Colonel Robert D. “Danny” Barr, who served under President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton said, as he once flew Air Force One for 14 hours and 45 minutes on a trip to Saudi Arabia.
In any case, Air Force One is a Boeing 747-200 plane, which we know to have a range of 7,800 miles (12,550 km).
Is There An Escape Pod?
In several movies, Air Force One is shown to have an escape pod.
In reality, Air Force One doesn’t have an escape pod or even emergency onboard parachutes.
Marine One Doesn’t Have Weapons Either
Marine One refers to one of the two helicopters that are used to transport the President.
Just like with Air Force One, Marine One does not have any offensive capabilities, but does have ballistic armor, missile warning systems, and antimissile defenses.
Air Force One is Huge
Air Force One is among the world’s largest planes, measuring 231 feet 10 inches or 70.66 meters long, with a wingspan of 195 feet 8 inches or 59.64 meters, and a height of 64 feet 6 inches or 19.35 meters tall.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.