by Marina Malenic

The FY ’12 budget request for the Air Force is just over $166 billion and includes $197 million to start a new bomber aircraft development program.

The total Air Force budget request is down by nearly $5 billion this year. The largest portion of the decrease from FY ’11 to FY ’12 is a $4.4 billion reduction in expenditures to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that development of a new long-range, penetrating, optionally manned bomber would be funded beginning in the FY ’12 budget request. According to Air Force officials, another $3.7 billion would be spent on the effort over the following four years to procure of fleet of 80 to 100 aircraft.

Gates suspended the Air Force’s next-generation bomber development plans over a year ago, asking service officials to better flesh out ideas before proceeding. The FY ’11 defense spending request included a small amount of money for industrial base sustainment, but the FY ’12 request contains $197 for a full-scale development effort.

Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s comptroller, said the department wants to use “largely existing technology…so that we can buy it in large numbers.” He added that the Air Force is eyeing the mid-2020s for initial fielding.

Further, the Air Force is requesting a total of $14.6 billion for aircraft procurement and nearly $7 billion for munitions.

Nearly $3.6 billion of that would go toward continued development and initial procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Air Force’s single largest acquisition outlay. Just over $1 billion would be spent on “critical modernization” of the F-22 Raptor fleet.

Some $2.25 billion is being requested to procure 48 MQ-9 Reaper combat air vehicles, the maximum procurement that the contractor can support, according to officials.

Approximately $424 million is requested for RQ-4 Global Hawk development, with another $485 million going toward the procurement of three new air vehicles.

Just under $1.5 billion would be spent on airlift, including the purchase of nine C-27J Spartan tactical transport planes.

The Air Force wants to spend approximately $400 million on V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft for its Special Operations fleet. And a little over $150 million is requested for a Light-Attack Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) aircraft for training foreign militaries.

Another $871 million is requested for the KC-X aerial refueling tanker replacement program. The Air Force is expected to announce a winner in that contest in the coming days.

The Air Force expects to begin procurement of several satellites in FY ’12. Just under $553 million is requested for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program; almost $469 million is requested for the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite program; and nearly $434 million is requested for the Global Positioning System program.