The U.S. Air Force receives a $5.9 billion procurement boost in fiscal 2023—just behind the U.S. Navy’s $6.5 billion increase—in the defense portion of the fiscal 2023 omnibus appropriations bill.

Out of the $54.1 billion recommended for Air Force procurement, among the biggest increases to unclassified programs are $1.7 billion added for 16 Lockheed Martin [LMT] C-130J transports for the Air National Guard; about $567 million for the Lockheed Martin F-35, including $115 million for a unit cost increase; nearly $554 million for four BAE Systems EC-37B Compass Call aircraft; nearly $499 million for the Lockheed Martin HH-60W Jolly Green II Combat Rescue Helicopter; and about $151 million to accelerate Multi-Domain Operation (M2D0) modifications, including anti-jam and improved weapons carriage, for General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers.

The Air Force expects that the M2DO upgrades will keep the MQ-9 operationally relevant against potential technologically advanced adversaries until the drone’s projected end of service in 2035. The service said that it has begun retrofitting some MQ-9s with M2DO.

Advanced electronics was also a feature of the congressionally recommended add for the EC-37B.

The Air Force and BAE Systems moved the electronic warfare (EW) system of the EC-130H Compass Call onto what is to be the Air Force’s next generation onboard EW plane, the EC-37B (Defense Daily, Dec. 2, 2021).

BAE Systems’ Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resources (SABER) technology is the backbone of the EC-37B’s operating system and is to facilitate EW upgrades for the aircraft.

The EC-37B is based on the Gulfstream [GD] G550 business jet.

The EC-130H Compass Call has been in service since 1981 to disrupt enemy communications, radar, and navigation systems.

On the HH-60W, congressional appropriators added 10 and said they are concerned by Air Force plans to curtail the planned buy of the helicopter and the Boeing [BA] F-15EX.

“The fiscal year 2023 president’s budget request includes 10 Combat Rescue Helicopters (CRH), which is less than the 20 CRH previously planned,” the appropriators said in their justification for adding $570 million for an additional 10 HH-60Ws.

“It is concerning that in the fiscal year 2023 president’ s budget submission both the F-l 5EX and CRH programs have been truncated across the future years defense program (FYDP) well below their stated acquisition objectives,” the appropriations language says. “The revised strategy sees the F-15EX planned procurement objective reduced from 144 to 80 aircraft and the CRH procurement objective reduced from 113 to 75 aircraft. Both programs are in the relatively early stages of production and provide modern capabilities, but the new strategy ends CRH production after this fiscal year and F-l5 EX production after fiscal year 2024. While trade-offs occur to support force readiness and modernization. truncating programs that only recently transitioned into production and were hailed as supporting critical Air Force missions. such as personnel recovery and future tactical air, calls into question the strategic underpinning of these and other acquisition decisions.”

The planned Air Force reduction of 64 F-15EXs “leaves in doubt the status and future of F-l5C/D units, several of which are housed in the Air National Guard,” appropriators said. “The agreement therefore directs the secretary of the Air Force to submit a report to the congressional defense committees, concurrent with submission of the fiscal year 2024 president’s budget request, that provides a list of all aircraft procurement programs that are being truncated across the FYDP, to include F-15EX and CRH. The report shall include an assessment of the operational impacts of the decision, strategic basing impacts, cost avoidance by fiscal year, quantity change, and the rationale for truncation.”