Aviation Programs Big Winners in DoD 2016 Budget

By Sarah Sicard

Aviation programs would receive a nearly 7 percent boost in the Obama administration’s defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2016. Compared to 2015, when funding for military aircraft was $42.1 billion, this year’s budget seeks $48.8 billion.

The budget would pay for 57 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, 41 logistics support aircraft, 300 helicopters and 53 unmanned aerial vehicles. Funding is also included for development of aircraft related technologies, aerospace equipment, modifications to existing aircraft, and early procurement of spare parts.

Aviation’s $48.8 billion slice of the Pentagon’s modernization budget is the largest of the overall pie of $177.6 billion. By comparison, shipbuilding and maritime systems receive $25.6 billion.

Most of the aviation funds are for combat aircraft ($19.7 billion). Next are cargo aircraft ($9 billion), aircraft modifications ($6 billion), aircraft support ($5.3 billion), unmanned aerial vehicles ($2.9 billion) technology development ($1.6 billion) and support aircraft ($1.3 billion).

The budget plan signals the Pentagon’s — especially the Air Force's — big push to modernize its aging aircraft fleets.

Although research development of next-generation aircraft receives modest funding in 2016, the Defense Department has made it a priority for future investments, according to Pentagon budget documents released Feb. 2. Under the so-called “aerospace innovation initiative,” the Defense Department intends to reduce “lead time and technological risk” for the next generation of tactical aircraft.

Pentagon officials have indicated that the 2016 budget is an attempt to end a five-year decline in weapons modernization spending.

The 2016 proposal seeks $69.8 billion for research, development, testing and engineering — an increase of $6.3 billion compared to 2015. That includes $12.3 billion for basic science. Proposed funding for the purchase of new equipment is $107.7 billion, an increase of $14.1 billion over 2015

“Our fiscal year 2016 future years defense program reverses the decline in defense spending over the past five years and works to address the under-investment in new weapons by making targeted investments in those areas we deem to be the highest priority, particularly in research and development, and procurement,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said last week. 

“We’ve made significant investments in our nuclear enterprise; new space control capabilities; advanced sensors, communications, and munitions for power projection; missile defense; and cyber capabilities. We are also investing in promising new technologies and capabilities, including unmanned undersea vehicles; sea mining; high speed strike weapons; an advanced new jet engine; rail gun technology; and high energy lasers,” Work said.

To pay for this new technology, defense officials have said the Pentagon is seeking to mothball aging aircraft, including congressional favorites like the Air Force A-10 attack plane. The 2016 budget proposes to retire “less capable, single-mission, or vulnerable weapons systems, such as the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, and focusing limited funding on the most capable, versatile, and survivable systems to accomplish assigned missions.”

Topics: Aviation, Joint Strike Fighter, Tactical Aircraft, Transport Aircraft, Defense Department, DOD Budget

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