The Air Force’s fiscal year 2018 budget request contains billions of dollars to ramp up development work on several major new aviation and missile programs, including the B-21 bomber and the Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO).
The B-21 Raider, which will replace aging bombers, would receive $2 billion in FY 2018, up from $1.3 billion the previous year, according to Air Force documents released May 23.
“It’s just a natural progression of the program,” Carolyn Gleeson, budget deputy in the Air Force financial management and comptroller office, told reporters at the Pentagon. The B-21 is “moving into detailed design. It’s fully funded and progressing like we would expect it to.”
The Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, which is pursuing a successor to Air Force One, would get $434 million in FY 2018, up from $351 million the previous year.
The replacement effort for the E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance aircraft would receive $417 million, up from $128 million. The Combat Rescue Helicopter, which will replace aging HH-60G helicopters, would get $355 million, up from $319 million.
The Next Generation Air Dominance effort, which is looking at how to address future threats, would receive $295 million, up from $21 million. Responding to a question about the study, Maj. Gen. James Martin, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for budget, said, “We’d better be ready for the potential threats 10, 20 years from now because we know the capability gap is closing. This allows us to go out and think of new ways of doing business. We need to invest in technology that when it shows up, people go, ‘Where did that come from?’”
Two programs developing nuclear-armed missiles – LRSO and the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) — would also see significant funding increases in the Air Force budget.
LRSO, which will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, would receive $451 million in FY 2018, up from $96 million the previous year. GBSD, which will replace the ground-launched Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, would receive $216 million, up from $114 million.
Other highlights of the Air Force budget include $5.4 billion to buy 46 F-35A Lighting IIs, down slightly from 48 jets in FY 2017. Air Force officials have said they want to reach an annual production rate of 60 F-35As as soon as possible.
The request provides $3.1 billion to continue developing the KC-46A Pegasus tanker and buy 15 of the aircraft in its fourth year of low-rate initial production. The F-22 Raptor and F-15 Eagle would receive $916 million and $963 million, respectively, for modernization.
To replenish depleted munitions inventories, the Air Force would fund the Small Diameter Bomb Increment 1, Hellfire missile and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) at production capacity, officials said.
The Air Force would spend $709 million to buy 16 Reaper unmanned aircraft in FY 2018, down from 24 Reapers the previous year. The budget would fund an analysis of alternatives on next-generation intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike capabilities.
The request would return two backup C-5M transports to primary aircraft authorization status. The Air Force’s fleet of 283 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, which the service once proposed to retire, would be funded across the future years defense program.
On the space side, the Air Force would get $1.9 billion for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, including three competitive launches.
The missile-warning Space Based Infrared System would receive $1.4 billion, including incremental funding for the fifth and sixth geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) satellites and advance procurement for GEO-7 and GEO-8.
The Global Positioning System would get $1.1 billion to ready the first two GPS III satellites for launch, prepare to compete GPS III space vehicles 11 and beyond, continue developing the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX), enhance the legacy Operational Control System and develop GPS user equipment.
The request contains $203 million for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellite program to oversee production of the fifth and sixth space vehicles and improve the system’s capabilities.
The Air Force’s total budget would be $183 billion, up from $171.2 billion the previous year. Procurement would total $24.7 billion, an $800 million increase, and research and development would get $25.4 billion, up $5.2 billion. Operation and maintenance would receive $49.2 billion, a $1.3 billion hike, and the overseas contingency fund would get $13.9 billion, up $1 billion.
Martin said the Air Force request would improve readiness and future capabilities but that the return of across-the-board budget caps would derail those efforts.
“To pay the bill, we would have to consider all options, such as reducing force structure, delaying even more modernization programs, shortchanging readiness accounts, and delaying investments in our strategic assets, such as nuclear, space, ISR and cyber,” he said.