The US Department of Defense (DoD) fiscal year 2000 budget plan contains several unexpected procurement decisions for the US forces. They include additional Lockheed MartinF-16C/Ds, Boeing C-17 transports and one Northrop Grumman Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft that were not planned for the budget submission.

The USAF plans to buy no more Lockheed Martin C-130J transports until 2002/3, and has cancelled the Lockheed Martin/Boeing DarkStar Tier III Minus stealthy unmanned air vehicle (UAV).

The FY2000 request calls for $53 billion in weapons procurement and $34 billion for research and development, allowing the Clinton Administration to remain on track towards its FY2001 $62 billion procurement spending target. The US DoD wants to spend $267 billion during FY2000, an increase of $4 billion over what the US Congress gave the Pentagon for FY99 weapons spending.

The USAF would receive $79 billion in FY2000, including $441 million for 10 additional F-16 fighters, the first instalment of a planned purchase of 50 Block 50 F-16s. Ten would be funded in FY2002, with 10 more the following year. These aircraft will replace Block 30 aircraft that will go to the Air National Guard. The decision will extend domestic production of the fighter beyond 2003.

The spending plan calls for one additional E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, bringing the total force to 14. The DoD had cut E-8C purchases from 19 to 13 to save money. Senior USAF officials plan to seek additional Joint STARS aircraft until a fleet of 19 aircraft is achieved.

The USAF has decided to buy an additional 14 C-17s in FY2004/5 for special operations missions, in addition to the 120 C-17s Boeing is under contract to produce.

Only small numbers of C-130Js will be purchased to replace the USAF's ageing C-130Es. The air force plans to buy only two in each of FY2002/3, followed by eight in FY2004 and 10 in FY2005.

The stealthy DarkStar UAV will be grounded when the advanced concept technology demonstrator programme ends, with the USAF opting for the Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical Global Hawk long-endurance UAV. While a requirement remains for a stealthy high-altitude UAV, the USAF says "the trade-off was between stealth and range, and we chose range".

Source: Flight International