Nov 05, 2015 defense-aerospace.com
(Source: Fortune; published Nov 04, 2015)
The Air Force’s New Bomber Faces A Pentagon Budget Battle (excerpt)
As Congress seeks billion in defense cuts, America’s new $100 billion stealth bomber looks for space in the Pentagon’s long-term spending plan
The battle over who will build the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation stealth bomber came to a close last week, but a new conflict is already developing at the Pentagon. A defense budget passed Friday has Congress and military planners seeking $5 billion in defense cuts, as the Air Force prepares to squeeze another costly development program into a Pentagon budget already packed with big-ticket weapons buys.
Last week’s award of the Long Range Strike Bomber program, or LRS-B, to Northrop Grumman over a joint bid by defense giants Lockheed Martin “LMT” and Boeing “BA” marks what is expected to be the Pentagon’s last major combat aircraft program for a decade. But as defense planners embark on a slew of much-needed modernization programs over the next decade, money remains scarce—and could grow scarcer still.
With limited funds to go around, the LRS-B program could find itself competing for funds with myriad Pentagon programs amid tightening budgets. The U.S. Navy has embarked on a major program—starting in the early 2020s—to replace its fleet of Ohio-class nuclear submarines, a key component of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. The U.S. Army is engaged in a multi-billion dollar effort to upgrade its ground vehicles and plans to develop and buy a whole new fleet of helicopters in the 2020s. Meanwhile, the Army, Navy, and Marines are all engaged in the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
Within the Air Force alone, the LRS-B will join a number of major new and ongoing programs. In the next several years, the service plans to begin replacing its fleet of E-8 ground surveillance aircraft known as JSTARS, its aging Vietnam War-vintage T-38 jet trainers, and its land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
A new combat rescue helicopter and a replacement for Air Force One are in the works. Meanwhile, Air Force brass have also prioritized ramping up production on both the F-35 and the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker—made by Lockheed and Boeing respectively—at the same time the LRS-B is trying to get off the ground. (end of excerpt)
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