President Obama outlined ambitious new goals for U.S. deficit reduction, including a call for growth in security spending to be held below inflation over the next 12 years. This amounts to a $400 billion cut over current plans. Fiscal hardliners have called for even greater cuts in defense spending–up to $1 trillion. While the Congress would probably not implement such drastic surgery, the outlook for defense spending in the U.S. has now clearly changed.
Meanwhile, the Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. federal budget has finally been approved, allowing the Pentagon to start new programs. Aviation highlights of the Fiscal Year 2012 Pentagon budget testimony given recently to Congress are:
• initial funding for a new stealth bomber that will be “designed and built using existing technologies”
• more funding for F-15C/D upgrades, including new displays and radios as well as the AESA radar retrofit
• a study on F-16 modernization including AESA radar, displays, electronic warfare and datalink, plus design of structural modifications for Blocks 40/42/50/52
• a study on how to replace the E-8 JSTARS
• 13 electronic attack pods for the MQ-9 Reaper UAS
• development and full-rate production of the AIM-9X Block 2 air-air missile
• funds for the competitive prototyping development of a ‘next-generation missile’ to replace the AIM-120D and the AGM-88
• fielding of the first of 72 planned MH-60M helicopters for special forces, replacing MH-60K/L versions. The Army gets 71 more UH-60M/HH-60M upgraded versions.
• reduced procurement of six F-35Bs each in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 while the V/STOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter remains on probation
• 28 more F/A-18E/Fs, with production to be extended through Fiscal Year 2014
• a further life extension to 10,000 hours for 150 F/A-18C/D versions.