2015 Defense Budget Retains Key Programs
On March 2, President Obama revealed the 2015 federal budget, and although in its present form it has absolutely no chance of being passed by Congress, it does contain what the Pentagon and the administration believe the US needs to maintain its strong military presence throughout the world.
In short, the Department of Defense has proposed spending $496 billion in 2015 and will slightly reduce purchases of weapons but intends to spend $153.9 billion for new aircraft, ships, satellites, ground systems, and other equipment. Modernization investments including research and development are only 3.6% below last year even accounting for federal budget caps. R&D in the base budget falls only $1.7 billion or 2.6% below the enacted 2014 spending levels. Preserving adequate funding for R&D has been the mantra at DoD over the last year, for which the RF and microwave industry should be pleased. Procurement was reduced by only $3.8 billion or 4% below the enacted 2014 level.
An additional “opportunity, growth and security” initiative that is separate from the Pentagon’s 2015 base budget includes almost $4 billion for procurement of military aircraft. So if Congress approves this additional money, it would increase the Pentagon’s modernization spending to near the $159.7 billion approved by Congress in 2014.
Within this additional proposal are funds for 26 Boeing Apache helicopters ($600 million), 28 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters ($500 million), 2 Boeing Chinook helicopters ($100 million), 8 Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft ($1.1 billion), Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft ($1.1 billion), 2 Lockheed F-35 joint strike fighters ($300 million), and 12 General Atomics MQ-9 UAVs ($200 million). Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding calls for spending $63.5 billion which is an increase of $700 million over last year.
In order to meet the demands of current economic conditions, the budget calls for terminating or restructuring weapon systems acquisition programs that are experiencing technical problems, unsustainable cost growth, or inefficient operations. Say goodbye to the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program and Kiowa Warrior Helicopter, and the Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) program.
The budget does however include funds for development of a Long Range Discriminating Radar (LRDR) to provide persistent coverage and improved discrimination capability against threats to the US mainland from the Pacific theater, as well as buying an additional Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery for a total of seven along with 31 THAAD interceptors. It also calls for buying 70 new Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles that improve performance over the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile, and completes U.S. contributions to the Israeli Iron Dome system while continuing support for the Israeli Arrow and David’s Sling Weapons Systems. There will also be funds for enhancing Aegis ships with 30 SM-3 Block 1B interceptor ballistic missile defense capability that will also be deployed at the Romania Aegis Ashore site.
The FY 2015 budget also requests $7.2 billion for DoD’s space investment programs such as the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), Advanced Extremely-High Frequency (AEHF), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The Pentagon will delay procurement of GPS-III space vehicles because the spacecraft are lasting longer than expected. There is also $1 billion for procurement of GPS satellite 9, advanced procurement of GPS satellite 10, as well as funds for the Space Fence, Weather Satellite follow-on, and a variety of classified programs.
Under the category of science and technology (S&T) lies $11.5 billion, which is only 2.3% of the Pentagon budget and is only slightly less than the $12 billion enacted in 2014. Overall S&T funding for the Army, Navy and Air Force are each about $2 billion. The goals of the S&T efforts include maintaining a “robust” $2 billion basic research program, and a slight increase in funding for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of $2.9 billion dedicated to “technologies for revolutionary, high-payoff military capabilities.”
There is also additional funding for the National Advanced Manufacturing Initiative at five centers throughout the country that will support the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation plan and the National Economic Council’s manufacturing goals. Included within S&T is $2 billion for “projecting power despite anti-access/area denial challenges”, countermeasures for weapons of mass destruction ($1 billion), $900 million for ensuring effective operation in cyberspace in space, $500 million for electronic warfare, and $300 million for kinetic weapons.
For the Navy
The Navy gets $38 billion less than in 2014 but includes construction of 44 ships, including 14 of the much-loathed Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) along with continued production of destroyers and submarines of which 10 of each will be built through 2019. Shipbuilding also calls for one aircraft carrier, one general-purpose amphibious assault ship, and several others.
The budget supports a balanced manned and unmanned aviation procurement plan of 470 aircraft over five years including the Marine Corps Short Takeoff Vertical Lift (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter of which 104 will be produced over the five-year period. The Marine Corps gets 133 AH-1Z-1/UH-1Y helicopters and 64 MV-22 Ospreys, and unmanned systems include the first Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS) aircraft and MQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aircraft System for a total of 24 through FY 2019. The budget also calls for procurement of airborne early warning aircraft (25 E-2D), multi-mission maritime aircraft (56 P-8A), multi-mission helicopters (29 MH-60R, 8 MH-60S), and other aircraft.
The Air Force
The budget takes into consideration that other countries are building fighter aircraft with similar capabilities to the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor along with advanced surface-to-air missile systems and that improvements to countries’ fourth-generation aircraft will likely make them as capable as F-15C/D fighters. Consequently, the F-15C/D fleet, which averages over 26 years old, requires modernization and although the fleet would be reduced by 51 aircraft by 2019 the remaining 197 will be equipped with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars and the Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) that improves the survivability of the aircraft with a new radar warning receiver and integrated jammer and countermeasures dispenser.
To ensure that the F-22A Raptor maintains its capabilities in the face of advancing threats, the fighter will get improvements to the APG-77 air-to-ground and electronic attack radar, as well as a host of enhancements including the AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the AIM-9X Sidewinder. The venerable all-encompassing, EC-130H Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft will continue its ominous presence as the Air Force will operate the current 15 aircraft throughout 2015.
The AEHF system will be expanded with spacecraft numbers five and six through 2027 and the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous orbit (GEO) spacecraft five and six will be procured through 2025. The Space Fence, which consists of two land-based radars for detection, tracking, and characterization of orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, space junk and breakup events, will be continued. The first site, which is supposed to be operational in 2018 will be on Kwajalein Atoll.
The FY 2015 budget request includes 50 MQ-1/MQ-9 Combat Air Patrols with the ability to support 65 MQ-1/MQ-9 UAVs until the full transition to an all-MQ-9 fleet is made near 2019. The RQ-4 Block 30 UAV will be funded and the legendary U-2 will be retired in FY 2016. The continues funding for a complete overhaul of the 76-member fleet of B-52 bombers with the Combat Network Communication Technology (CONECT) system, secure “beyond line-of-sight” communications, and situational awareness upgrades.
The aircraft’s internal weapons bay will be upgraded to carry the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer, and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) capability on external pylons. The B-2 bomber will receive the Defensive Management Systems-Modernization (DMS-M) and the Common Very Low Frequency/Low Frequency Receiver (CVR), as well as funding for the B61 Tailkit that allows carriage of the B61 nuclear bomb.
As the A-10C has been the primary Close Air Support (CAS) of the Air Force for decades, it’s retirement is certainly lamented. The Department of Defense believes that it cannot remain viable in anti-access environments so it will be retired beginning in 2015. Replacing it will be more survivable survivable multi-role platforms.
The F-15E long-range, dual-role Strike Eagle will get new AESA radars in order to keep it functional through the 2040s. It will also get improved EW capabilities as well as EPAWSS. The goal for the F-16 fleet includes performing durability and other tests to ensure that it will have another 8 to 10 years of service life. The budget calls for continued funding of 26 of the new F-35A joint strike fighter aircraft that will ultimately perform global precision attack functions, complementing the F-22A.
The Air Force is committed to modernizing its bomber capability for performing long-range strike operations, with a new aircraft that includes advanced ISR, EW, communications, and weapons capabilities. This bomber, the LRS-B, is designed to penetrate the most intense access denial environments throughout the world. The Air Force FY 2015 budget request includes funding to continue the development this somewhat mysterious aircraft. The Air Force will also continue to modernize the B-1B bomber with a host of upgrades.
Command and Control
Based on positive test results of the Synthetic Aperture Radar Moving Target Indicator, the Next-Generation JSTARS will be placed on the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft. It includes an advanced ground surveillance radar and on-board battle management suite. The fleet is expected to include 16 aircraft and is slated for operation beginning in 2022. The Air Force will reduce AWACS capacity by seven aircraft in FY 2015 but will retain modernization funding for the remaining AWACS fleet and continue to fund the E-3G variant and enhance the electronic protection capability of the E-3 radar.
Source selection is currently underway for low-rate rate initial production of the Three Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) that will replace the TPS-75 radar and will become the primary Air Force long-range radar. The Deployable Radar Approach Control (D-RAPCON) program will be reduced by four systems in order to save $95 million but will continue its mission of replacing the 40-year old Airport Surveillance Radar and Operations Shelter subsystems with state-of-the-art digital systems. It will provide both a terminal and en-route aircraft surveillance capability, and will be used with the Deployable Instrument Landing System (D-ILS) and a fixed or mobile control tower to provide complete air traffic control capability.