The Air Force has outlined $3.2 billion worth of programs it did not include in the fiscal year 2021 Presidential Budget request in its annual unfunded priorities list to Congress, including advanced technology research and development, new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and space and cyber activities.
The request document, obtained by Defense Daily, includes $1.17 billion for 12 additional F-35A aircraft with initial spares in FY ’21, and $171 million to procure long lead support items for the fighter jet. The official budget request includes $5.1 billion to procure 48 F-35As; the unfunded priorities request would bring the service up to 60 aircraft in FY ’21, compared to 62 procured in FY ’20 and 56 in FY ’19 (Defense Daily, Feb. 10).
About $156 million worth of advance procurement dollars for the F-35A program was included in a $3.8 billion Pentagon-wide funds transfer for the Trump administration’s border wall (Defense Daily, Feb. 13). Documents viewed by Defense Daily stated the funding was excess to need and based on a higher number of aircraft than will be requested in the FY ’21 budget. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the contractor for the F-35 program.
The Air Force requested $176 million to field “cutting-edge offensive cyber effects.” The unfunded priorities list also included extra funds for two R&D efforts the service has dubbed “Vanguard” programs, called Skyborg and Golden Horde.
The request includes $25 million for the Skyborg prototyping program being run out of the Air Force Research Laboratory, that is testing ways to use a Kratos [KTOS] XQ-58A Valkyrie aircraft as an unmanned autonomous combat aircraft.
Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper said in a Feb. 21 media roundtable that Skyborg remains “high on the list,” but noted that the service included funding in the presidential budget request to further test the XQ-58A — which will likely become the Skyborg prototype — and thus decided to delay officially funding a prototype in FY ’21.
“I fully expect that we’ll see an attritable drone program called Skyborg in our FY ’22 budget,” Roper said. “If it makes the FY ’22 budget, then we know we have the funds … to be able to keep it alive, keep it moving, and work on the artificial intelligence.”
The unfunded priorities request included a $35 million for the Golden Horde effort to develop swarming munitions by enabling a Small Diameter Bomb (SDB-1) to autonomously coordinate attacks on emitting or GPS targets, and $55 million for a largely classified “Emerging Technology Concept (ETC) Prototype,” which focuses on “advancing critical technology readiness, design work on prototype demonstrator and securing space launch support.”
About $1.3 billion of the Air Force’s unfunded priorities request is for military construction and facility modernization. About $190 million is for range updates and increasing the capacity of the service’s Cyber Formal Training Unit.
The third Vanguard program, Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3), could receive $30 million in additional funds to accelerate its payload development, according to the Space Force’s list of targeted unfunded priorities. L3Harris Technologies [LHX] is the industry partner for NTS-3, working with AFRL.
The Space Force is requesting $1 billion in unfunded priorities for FY ’21, $107 million of which is for “classified technologies.” Along with NTS-3 funding, about $211 million is requested to boost defensive space capabilities, including $149 million for the Lockheed Martin-led Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), $40 million to increase updates to early warning radar and support, and $22 million for electronic warfare capabilities.
About $175 million would help accelerate the enhancement of satellite communication capabilities, while $110 million would allow the service to more rapidly field space situational awareness assets. The Space Force requested $225 million to procure launch services for the sixth and seventh GPS III space vehicles.