The Pentagon is increasing production of the General Atomics Predator and Reaper armed UAVs and withdrawing 250 strike aircraft. The long-awaited statement on the U.S. Fiscal Year 2010 budget by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed an end to F-22 production at 187 aircraft, offset by a slight advance in the pace of the F-35 program.
As expected, Gates cancelled the AgustaWestland/Lockheed Martin VH-71 presidential helicopter, which he said had doubled in price and was six years behind schedule. The USAF’s search for a new Combat Search And Rescue helicopter (CSAR-X) was also halted. CSAR-X was delayed and recompeted after Lockheed Martin challenged Boeing’s selection, but Gates called it “yet another single-purpose, single-service solution.”
Gates also said he was cancelling a number of other programs, including classified ones, “where requirements were truly in the exquisite category.” The USAF’s Next-Generation Long-Range Strike (NGLRS) project to produce a new bomber by 2018, which was mostly classified, has been stopped “until we have a better understanding of the need, the requirement and the technology,” said Gates.
The budget for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance will increase by $2 billion so that no fewer than 50 orbits of Predator and Reaper-class UAVs can be simultaneously maintained by 2011. “These UAVs are starting to supplant some of the F-15E and F-16 mission space,” noted Gen James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most of the 250 fighters being axed are F-16s.