The Navy’s fiscal year 2022 budget request would decrease the service’s new aircraft procurement spending to $16.5 billion, down from $19.5 billion in FY ‘21 amid the end of several procurement programs.

“The Department appreciates the strong congressional support of our aviation program in FY ’21, including the added funding for an additional 23 aircraft.  Our funding decreases from FY ’21 enacted as we completed the planned buy of the F-18 Super Hornet, the P-8 Poseidon, VH-92 presidential helicopter,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton said during a press conference last Friday.

The budget requests funds to procure 107 aircraft total. This includes $2.1 billion for 20

Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35C Joint Strike Fighters (JSF); $2.6 billion for 17 F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant JSFs; $1.3 billion for nine Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopters; $752 million for three carrier onboard delivery-variant Bell [TXT]-Boeing [BA] V-22 Osprey aircraft and five Marine Corps MV-22Bs; $766 million for five Northrop Grumman [NOC] E-2D Advanced Hawkeye; 36 TH-73A Advanced Helicopter Training System  trainer helicopters for $163 million; six  KC-130J Super Hercules tankers for $521 million; and seven Marine Group 5 Medium Altitude Long Endurance-Tactical (MALE-T) unmanned aircraft for $234 million.

The MALE-T UAS aims to support Marine Corps capability requirements identified within the Marine Air/Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System Expeditionary (MUX) Initial Capabilities Document (ICD).

According to the Navy’s budget documents, “the MALE program supports a subset of capabilities identified within the MUX overall requirements roadmap. MALE is proposed to be a land-based UAS that provides direct support to the Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) in peer-to-peer conflict. It will provide stand-off sensing and Command, Control, Communication, and Computers (C4) capabilities, while supporting numerous low-cost stand-in Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) assets.”

Gumbleton noted the Navy is requesting the five E-2Ds as it enters the fourth year of a five-year multiyear procurement (MYP) and the six Super Hercules aircraft are in the fourth year of its own five-year MYP.  The Navy Ospreys are also under a fifth year of a five-year MYP awarded in FY ‘18.

Compared to aircraft procurement in FY ‘21, this is six fewer F-35Cs; seven more F-35Bs; the same number of CH-53Ks; five fewer V-22s; the same number of E-2Ds; the same amount of TH-73As; and one more KC-130J.

However, as Gumbleton said, it reflects the end-of-purchase times for Super Hornets, P-8A Poseidons, the new VH-92 presidential helicopter, and MQ-4C Tritons.

According to the budget documents, in FY ‘21 the department completed aircraft procurement of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets with a total of 678 aircraft; completed Boeing Poseidons with 128 total aircraft; completed the VH-92A program with 11 total aircraft; and paused procurement of MQ-4Cs in FY ‘21 and 2022 “to allow the Integrated Functional Capability-4 (IFC4.0) design to mature, which will eliminate concurrency risk and minimize the retrofit cost.”

Moreover, the Navy budget request plans to accelerate full divestment of F/A-18 A-D Hornets from phase divestment finished by FY ‘24 to now complete by FY ‘22.

According to Navy budget documents, “the current budget request accelerates full divestment (55 aircraft) to FY 2022. The Navy accelerated Navy Reserve’s transition from F/A-18A-D to F/A-18E/F scheduled to be complete by end of FY 2022 by recapitalizing legacy Hornet aircraft with Super Hornets. The Navy mitigates risk in the near term with the expected transfer of F-16s to Navy from U.S. Air Force.”

“This divestment reduces long-term support cost of older Type/Model/Series, while retaining adversary capacity, and Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center testing capability using Block I Super Hornets,” the documents said. This effort aims to save over $95 million compared to previously plans.

When asked how the Navy plans to make the case to Congress to divest the Hornets early, Gumbleton noted the department is moving from 150 to 50 Hornets and then will walk that down further in future years. 

“So, that’s fully incorporated with the program. So, as we invest in the F-35s we spoke of, and then also match that with the fact that we’re increasing the readiness and availability of our Super Hornets and investing in their service life management. And so that blend of those three programs together is how we intend to manage that.”