Navy’s 2016 Budget Preserves Shipbuilding and Aircraft Procurement Plans (UPDATED)

By Valerie Insinna

The Navy’s fiscal year 2016 budget request contained few surprises this year, with the service protecting ship, aircraft and weapons acquisition in the face of mandatory budget cuts that will go into effect, should Congress not find a solution.

Through its $161 billion base budget request, the Navy will procure nine ships and 124 manned and unmanned aircraft. Still, the budget materials note, the constrained fiscal environment means that there will be risk associated with fulfilling the missions outlined in the president’s defense strategic guidance and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review.

In its budget request to Congress, the Navy asks for $44.4 billion for procurement, $50.6 billion for operations and maintenance and $17.9 billion for research and development. It seeks an additional $7 billion in overseas contingency operations funding.

Due to fiscal constraints, the service decreased its F-35C buy by 16 aircraft over the next five years, “contributing to the higher risk in specific QDR mission sets,” said Rear Adm. William Lescher, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget. It plans to buy two more of the planes in 2016 than expected in 2015, but decreases its purchases in the next four years. The Navy requests funding for four F-35Cs in 2016, with a total 38 procured through 2020.

Six-hundred-and-seventy-eight million dollars is requested for the refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington, which had once been in question because of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Congress mandates that the Navy keep an 11-carrier fleet, but since the USS Enterprise was retired in 2012, the sea service has operated with only 10 carriers. With the USS Gerald Ford to be introduced in 2016, refueling the George Washington would boost the carrier fleet back to 11 ships.
The overhaul will begin in mid 2017, Lescher said.

The Navy delayed the early operational capability of the controversial unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike platform or UCLASS, a carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle that congressional critics contended should be more lethal and survivable than the service’s vision. EOC will now occur around 2022, several years later than originally planned, Lescher said. The delay is due to a comprehensive review of the platform’s requirements.

The competition to build the air vehicle — including a long-awaited final request for proposals — was put on hold last year as the service conducted a review of its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance portfolio. The RFP will come out in fiscal year 2016, he said.

“Work on the other UCLASS segments, such as the carrier segment and the control system and connectivity segment, associated programs of record such as the stand up of the integration labs and test facilities continues throughout the requirement review process in order to reduce cost and mitigate overall program risk,” he added.

The budget confirms media reports that the sea service will replace its current fleet of aging C-2 cargo aircraft with the V-22 Osprey after a heated battle between C-2 manufacturer Northrop

Grumman and Bell-Boeing. The service plans to acquire 24 Navy variants of the rotorcraft in 2018 through 2020, the budget states.

The Navy will buy 44 V-22s total, Lescher said. “Forecasted initial operational capability for the Navy variant is FY 21.”

Despite budget pressures, the Navy plans to grow its fleet and force structure. Its number of deployable ships will increase from 271 in 2015 to 282 in 2016, culminating in a 306-ship fleet in 2020.

Fourteen new vessels will be delivered to the service in the upcoming fiscal year: the first Ford-class aircraft carrier, two nuclear attack submarines, five littoral combat ships, two joint high speed vessels, one amphibious transport dock, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and one Zumwalt-class destroyer. Three nuclear attack submarines will be retired.

The Navy is seeking $2.5 billion in 2016 for aircraft carrier procurement, including $1.6 billion for design and construction of the second Ford-class carrier and $875 million in advanced procurement for a third.

Over the next five years, the Navy will build 14 LCS, the final five of which will be an upgunned, modified version of the ship that the service will redesignate as a frigate. It requested $1.4 billion for three littoral combat ships in 2016.

The Navy requested $3.3 billion in funding for two Virginia-class submarines as well as $2 billion for advanced procurement. It wants $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2016 to continue the procurement of two DDG-51 destroyers, as well as $674 million for a new oiler. It also set aside $1.4 billion for the Ohio-class submarine replacement.

Additionally, the service’s request includes $550 million to complete funding for LPD 28, an amphibious transport dock that the Navy did not originally plan to buy but has been supported by

Congress, the Marine Corps and the shipbuilding industrial base.  Congress partially funded the ship last year, but the Navy’s acquisition head Sean Stackley has said that he would not move out on a contract for the ship unless the service has all of the money necessary to buy it.

The 2016 budget also seeks $16 billion to procure manned and unmanned aircraft for the Navy.

The Navy, which won’t see its F-35 variant introduced to the fleet until 2019, will fund a service life extension for its F/A-18 A-D Hornets that will keep the aircraft running  up to an additional 4,000 flight hours past its 6,000-hour lifespan. The service did not set aside any funding for additional F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters and E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft to augment the carrier airwing, but Congress may elect to add additional Growlers to the 2016 budget, as they did in 2015.

The Navy accelerated funding to purchase three more P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft over the next three years than originally planned for in 2015. In 2016, it plans to buy 16 aircraft for about $3.3 billion.

It plans to wrap up its procurement of MH-60R Seahawk, buying 29 of the multi-mission helicopter in 2016 for $970 million. The service also requested $1 billion in procurement funding for five E2-D Advanced Hawkeyes, an early warning aircraft that detects air and surface targets.

Unmanned acquisitions for the Navy include two MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopters and three MQ-4C Tritons, which will provide long range persistent surveillance to the service.

“Low rate initial production of the MQ-4 Triton starts in FY 16, while MQ-4 quantities decrease by one each in ’16 and ’17 from [presidential budget 2015] due to fiscal constraints,” Lescher said.

Also included in the budget is $2.1 billion for science and technology funding, including $67.4 million for investments in directed energy weapons such as the service’s electromagnetic railgun and solid state laser. That money will go toward developing a prototype laser that will be installed and demonstrated on a naval surface combatant in fiscal 2016. It will also fund tests of the railgun on a joint high speed vessel.

Over the next five years, the Navy plans to boost its number of sailors to 330,000 officers, enlisted and midshipmen, while the reserves will grow from about 57,400 personnel in fiscal year 2016 to 58,900 in fiscal 2020.

Its proposed force strength for fiscal year 2016 is about 5,600 more than originally planned for in the 2015 budget request, with the added manpower necessary to support the refueling of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier as well as to man vessels such as the Ticonderoga-class guided missile destroyers, Virginia-class submarines, DDG-51 destroyers and dock landing ships.

Topics: Aviation, Joint Strike Fighter, Rotary Wing, Tactical Aircraft, Transport Aircraft, Defense Department, DOD Budget, Shipbuilding, Aircraft Carriers, Submarines, Surface Ships

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