By Geoff Fein

The Navy faces $4.5 billion in unmet funding needs for FY ’08, which includes funding for ship maintenance, weapons enhancement, and aircraft improvements, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead wrote in a recent letter to Congress.

Top on the list for the Navy is a $548.3 million request for critical maritime patrol improvements.

“Funding is required for P-3 kit installations in FY ’08 and FY ’09 and R&D (research and development) for Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA) acceleration,” according to the Navy.

The additional MMA R&D accelerates testing of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities leading to an accelerated low-rate initial production contract in the first quarter of FY ’10, the Navy said. “Funding P-3 wing crack kits in FY ’08 and ’09, while accelerating MMA LRIP, helps bridge capability gaps in both the near and long term.”

In December, the Navy grounded 39 of its fleet of Lockheed Martin [LMT] P-3C Orion aircraft due to structural fatigue concerns discovered during an ongoing evaluation of the aircraft (Defense Daily, Dec. 18).

In FY ’08, the Navy said it had $5.7 billion in unmet needs including funding for one LPD-17-class amphibious ship, two T-AKE cargo ships, and airframes for the EA-18G, F/A- 18E/F and MH-60R/S.

Again in FY ’09, the Navy said it needs $1.7 billion for a San Antonio-class LPD-17. The request is similar to one made by Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway when he submitted his unmet needs list to lawmakers earlier this week (Defense Daily, Feb. 13).

The Navy has also asked again this year for an additional $941 million for procurement of the final two T-AKE, Lewis and Clark-class cargo ships. In FY ’08, the Navy said it had an unfunded requirement of $1.2 billion for two T-AKEs. The two ships would support the Maritime Pre-Position Force requirements. The funds would also enable the Navy to leverage an existing T-AKE production line at General Dynamics‘ [GD] NASSCO shipyard and allow the Navy to maintain support of the existing production contract without renegotiation.

The Navy also needs $384 million for six Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft for the Navy Reserves. “These aircraft will fill the shortfall in the Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift Inventory.” One of the C-130s will replace the Blue Angels transport aircraft.

The Navy is also requesting an additional $181.8 million for a number of weapon enhancements including recertification of 105 of Raytheon‘s [RTN] surface launched Block III Tomahawk missiles, procurement of 58 Tactical Tomahawks, and general purpose bomb procurement.

There is also a request for $100 million for two DDG-51 main reduction gear sets (one ship set).

“Enhancement addresses critical fleet readiness issue and leverages remaining industrial base capacity prior to line close out,” the Navy said. “There are no ready-for-issue ship sets currently available to support fleet assets.”

The Navy also needs $120 million for ship maintenance. “This addition would fully fund ship depot maintenance to 100 percent of the FY ’09 ship maintenance requirement.”

The service is also asking for an additional $180 million to fund F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, EA-18G Growler, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and E-2C/D spares shortfalls.

Lockheed Martin builds the F-35; Boeing [BA] builds both the EA-18G and the F/A-18E/F, and Northrop Grumman [NOC] builds the E-2C/D Advanced Hawkeye.

The Navy needs $41.2 million for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) enhancements. The request includes funds for the accelerated procurement of three Lockheed Martin AQS-22 dipping sonars for the MH-60R, procurement of 75 MK 54 exercise dummy torpedoes, procurement of an additional SURTASS (Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System) TL-29A Replacement Towed Array, refurbishment of MK-46 Lightweight Torpedo inventory, and additional fielding of Undersea Warfare Decision Support Systems to two deploying Carrier Strike Groups to enhance fleet ASW command and control capabilities, according to the Navy.

Among the needs noted by the Navy is $38.4 million to detach Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout from the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) schedule, keep Fire Scout on schedule, reduce risk to LCS developmental test (DT)/operational test (OT), and provide greater flexibility to the fleet with a mature unmanned aerial systems program and developed concept of operations.

Fire Scout is currently aligned with LCS DT/OT. “Continued delays in LCS are increasing [Fire Scout’s] cost while,” the vertical takeoff unmanned air vehicle would have been on schedule if not for the LCS slide, the Navy added.