Aircraft and aerial munition suppliers face a $14.2 billion hit over the next five years if the US Congress does not repeal mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, warns a new report issued on 15 April by the Department of Defense (DOD).
The report, entitled Estimated Impacts of Sequestration Level Funding, details how the automatic budget cuts enacted by Congress two years ago will target 16 aviation and munition programmes in development or production.
In absolute terms, the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme is expected to absorb the biggest fiscal hit. Sequestration cuts 17 fighters – including 15 F-35As and two F-35Cs – and $1.72 billion from the five-year budget plan, but that represents only 3.7% of programme’s $45.4 billion budget over the same period.
By comparison, the adaptive engine technology demonstration – aimed at developing a more fuel efficient supersonic jet engine – faces a $1.49 billion budget cut if sequestration is not repealed, andthat number could be devastating. It erases a $1 billion funding addition unveiled by the Obama Administration two months ago.
But the impact of sequestration crosses all aircraft and aerial weapons domains, including helicopters, airlifters, tankers and reconnaissance aircraft.
The cuts come on top of proposals in the Fiscal 2015 budget request to divest the Bell Helicopter OH-58D, Fairchild Republic A-10A/C and Lockheed Martin U-2S fleets, which have already prompted heated objections from some lawmakers.
Further sequestration cuts, if enacted, also would divest the Boeing KC-10 and Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Block 40 fleets.
Rotorcraft programmes are also a major target of the cuts, with six programmes accounting for $4.6 billion of the $14.2 billion cuts directed at the military’s aviation buget.
The US Army aviation community faces nearly $2.9 billion in additional cuts spread across three major programmes – Sikorsky UH-60M, Boeing AH-64D remanufacture and the Airbus UH-72A fleets. The US Marine Corps’ CH-53K programme, meanwhile, would be reduced by $1.04 billion.
After slashing eight Boeing P-8As from the Fiscal 2015 budget request, the navy could cut another six aircraft estimated to cost a combined $1.02 billion, according to the DOD report. Likewise, the US Air Force would reduce the procurement budget for the KC-46A tanker – one of the service’s three top spending priorities – by $1.14 billion and five of the 69 aircraft in the five-year budget plan.
The DOD report does not mention any impact on the USAF’s plans to develop a long-range strike bomber over the same period.