Military aircraft funding to peak this year, decline over next decade

By John Keller

FALLS CHURCH, Va. - U.S. military aircraft spending will peak this year at $47 billion, and decline to $41 billion in 2017, predict analysts of the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association (GEIA) in Arlington, Va.

Air Force aircraft funding over the next decade will increase from $21 billion to $23 billion; Navy and Marine Corps aircraft will decrease from $18 billion to $12 billion, Army funding will decrease from $6 billion to $5 billion, and defense agency funding will remain steady at $1 billion over the period, GEIA analysts say.

The GEIA released its predictions in October at its 2006 Vision Conference in Falls Church, Va., where the association unveiled its latest influential 10-year forecast of U.S. defense spending.

U.S. military aircraft spending will bottom out in 2012 at about $39 billion and increase slightly to $41 billion over the following five years, GEIA analysts. These amounts include spending for manned and unmanned aircraft procurement and research.

Over the next decade U.S. military aircraft procurement will decrease from $31 billion to $28 billion, while aircraft research, development, test, and evaluation spending will decrease from $15 billion to $12 billion.

Aircraft procurement actually is to increase slightly through 2010 to pay for ramping up production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as for procurement of P-8A maritime patrol aircraft and the KC-135 strategic tanker replacement.

Meanwhile, spending for procurement and research for unmanned aerial vehicles through 2017 will increase from $1.6 billion this year to $2.7 billion. One of the biggest program increases over the period will be for the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Aerial System (UCAS-N), which will increase to nearly $1 billion by 2017, GEIA analysts say.

Over the next decade U.S. military aviation leaders must keep an eye on the age of the nation’s combat aircraft fleet. The average age of Nary and Marine Corps aircraft will increase from 15 years to 20 years over the next decade, while during the same period the average Army aircraft will increase from nine to 19 years, and the average Air Force aircraft will increase from 17 to 24 years.

At the same time, U.S. military leaders will look at fundamentally changed roles for their aviation assets. Roles are shifting to persistent surveillance, maintaining air dominance, close air support, long-range strike, aerial refueling, and special-forces insertion and extraction, GEIA officials say.

Despite falling funding, several opportunities are available for industry, GEIA analysts say.

From 2011 to 2013 industry will be asked to help with developing a new long-range strike aircraft; extend the lives of the F/A-22 fighter-bomber and C-17 airlifter; re-engine the B-52 long-range bomber; develop the Apache Block IV attack helicopter; replace the Aerial Common Sensor; and modify several other airframes.

Farther in the future, from 2014 to 2017, the Pentagon will ask industry to help develop a new concept for airborne mobility; develop a joint multi-role helicopter and future jet trainer; and modify several other airframes.

In other aviation issues, the next decade will see an increase in integrating unmanned systems into routine U.S. military air operations, GEIA analysts say, as increasing numbers of unmanned aircraft are being fielded.

Meanwhile, increasing emphasis will be placed on persistent networked intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft and sensors.

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August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

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