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​Congress appropriates a 28% increase in funding for new aircraft

President Donald Trump signed into law on 23 March a spending bill that adds 143 aircraft, worth $9.5 billion, to what was already requested by the Department of Defence, including 20 additional F-35 Lightning II fighters, 10 F/A-18 Super Hornets, and three KC-46A tanker aircraft.

The defence spending was part of a $1.3 trillion budget that was six months overdue and only funds the government until 30 September. The Pentagon’s budget was boosted by $61 billion over last year to $700 billion. Congress appropriated $44 billion to aircraft procurement, 27.5 percent above what was requested by the Department of Defence.

The largest pile of money will be set aside to buy 90 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters, worth $10.2 billion in total. Some $2.9 billion of that total was not requested by the Department of Defence, but will fund 10 additional conventional take-off, six carrier variant and four vertical take-off F-35 Lightning II fighters, as well as additional tooling and spare engines, for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Congress also topped off the military’s wish list with 10 more Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets for the Navy, worth $739 million. In all, the Navy is buying 24 Super Hornets for a sum of $1.8 billion in fiscal 2018.

And despite Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson heavily criticizing Boeing for what she believes will be further delivery delays of KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tankers during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on 20 March, Congress rewarded the company with three more unrequested orders, worth $510 million. In total, the Department of Defence has been appropriated $2.9 billion to order 18 KC-46A tankers this fiscal year.

The Department of Defence was also appropriated 16 additional Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft of differing variants – more than double the number of aircraft requested. Five MC-130J variants will go to Special Operations Command; six C-130J aircraft will go to Air National Guard; four KC-130J tanker aircraft will go to the Marine Corps; and one HC-130J aircraft will go to the Air Force. In total, Congress appropriated $2.4 billion for buying 25 C-130 Hercules aircraft.

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