DoD seeks more aircraft funds, axes second F-35 engine

Washington DC
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

The US Department of Defense is making another bid to cancel the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 alternative engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Cancellation of the F136 and no funds for more Boeing C-17 airlifters – both of which have been big issues for Congress – are among the few "surprises" in the DoD’s fiscal year 2009 budget request, released on 4 February.

The Bush administration is seeking $518.3 billion in defence spending, plus $70 billion to cover costs associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The "base" request is about 7.5% up on the FY2008 budget approved by Congress.

Of the total, $45.6 billion is for aircraft development and procurement. The FY2009 request funds for procurement of the Lockheed F-22 and F-35, Boeing F/A-18E/F and EA-18G, and Bell Boeing V-22 at or close to planned levels.

No new C-17s or Lockheed C-130Js are sought for the US Air Force in FY2009, but more of both airlifter types are expected to be included in war-related supplemental funding that has yet to be approved by Congress.

The DoD is requesting funding for the planned 16 JSFs – eight conventional take-off F-35As for the USAF and eight short take-off F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps – up from 12 in FY2008. But the Pentagon is making another attempt to cut costs by cancelling the F136.

Congress overturned the DoD’s bid last year to cancel the alternative JSF engine by adding back the full $480 million in funding for FY2008. This will take the money spent on F136 development to $1.3 billion of a planned $2.4 billion, says the GE/R-R Fighter Engine Team.

FY2008 will be the peak year for spending on F136 development, the team says, with $440 million required in FY2009 to keep the programme on schedule.

Money is requested in FY2009 on the final 20 F-22 Raptors for the USAF. There are no signs of any funding to continue production beyond the 183 planned. Procurement of the V-22 Osprey will ramp up as planned, from 26 in FY2008 to 36 in FY2009.

Funds are sought for 23 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 22 electronic-attack EA-18G Growlers for the US Navy, up slightly from FY2008 and essentially as planned.

There is mixed budget news for helicopter programmes. US Army procurement of Bell ARH-70 armed reconnaissance helicopters is to increase from 10 in FY2008 to 28 in FY2008, but is down substantially from the original plan after a restructuring caused by delays and cost overruns.

Similarly, US Marine Corps procurement of upgraded Bell AH-1Z/UH-1Y helicopters, to increase from 15 in FY2008 to 20 in FY2009, is down from the original plan after a restructuring.

Other helicopter purchases sought in FY2009 – 16 Boeing CH-47s and 63 Sikorsky UH-60s for the US Army, and 18 MH-60Ss and 31 MH-60Rs for the US Navy – are according to plan. But there is a slight decrease in the requested number of army Eurocopter UH-72 light utility helicopters, to 36.

The Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 presidential helicopter programme, threatened with cancellation because of escalating costs and delays, looks to have survived, with $1.05 billion requested for development in FY2009.

Procurement of the L-3 Communications/Alenia Aeronautics C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft also stays on plan, with funds requested for seven US Army aircraft, up from four in FY2008. The USAF is to begin buying aircraft in FY2010.