The defense appropriations portion of the Fiscal Year 2015 “omnibus” spending legislation the U.S. Congress passed in December extends production of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler and prevents retirement of the Air Force’s aging A-10 Warthog. Lawmakers provided $554.2 billion overall for base and overseas contingency funding of the Department of Defense, $18 billion less than the previous fiscal year, but roughly the same amount requested by the Obama administration.
The President’s budget request contained no funding for the Growler electronic warfare variant of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, raising the possibility that Boeing’s Super Hornet production line in St. Louis would be nearing an end. But the Navy added 22 Growlers to a list of “unfunded” priorities it submitted to Congress last spring, and Boeing said those aircraft would sustain production until 2017. The FY2015 appropriations legislation, which contains funding through September, provides the Navy with $1.46 billion to acquire 15 EA-18Gs.
Among other spending items, the bill provides $337 million to maintain an A-10 close air support fleet the Air Force seeks to retire, but one that nevertheless continues to see action in Iraq. Another $90.5 million was raised to continue operations of a full fleet of 31 Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft. The bill funds procurement of 38 F-35 Lightning II fighters, nine more than in FY2014.
Separate legislation the Congress passed in December—the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3979)—prohibits retirement of any A-10s in FY2015, but allows the DOD to place up to 36 aircraft into “back-up inventory status” subject to a review by its Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Directorate. The authorization bill also prohibits funding for “significant changes to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage” the U-2 surveillance jet, and prohibits retiring the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft or cancelling the C-130 avionics modernization program in the coming year.