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USAF wish list requests 14 more F-35s, three more tankers

The US Air Force’s unfunded priorities list includes $1.7 billion for 14 additional Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft, as well as additional funds for increased Boeing KC-46 tanker procurement.

The document, obtained by FlightGlobal this week, is the service’s annual wish list for programmes the air force could not fit into the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget request. Funding for the Joint Strike Fighter would cover total weapon system cost, plus fair share of initial spares and modification to the Block 3F configuration, the document states.

Under the USAF’s base budget request, the service requested 46 F-35As, two more than number forecasted for fiscal year 2018 in the service’s five-year defence plan released last year. The air force requested 43 F-35As in its FY2017 budget, but Congress granted a total of 48 F-35As in the final FY2017 budget.

The FY2018 base budget also included $68 million for the coming fiscal year to address concurrency retrofits, correct deficiencies, as well as the block upgrade of hardware and software to a Block 3i configuration and the block upgrade of software components to a full Block 3F configuration.

Also topping the air force’s wish list is a $600 million request to procure three additional KC-46 tankers in FY2018 above the current procurement schedule of 15 aircraft per year. The initial budget request would procure 15 tankers each year through FY2022. In May, Boeing officials told reporters the company had 20 aircraft in production and could deliver aircraft fairly quickly to the USAF. Boeing could deliver 18 aircraft to the service by 2018, according to KC-46 programme manager Mike Gibbons, but the tanker is still waiting for some approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The air force gave high priority to its Compass Call recapitalisation programme, which will cross-deck existing technology from the legacy EC-130H on to a new aircraft. The service calls for $10 million to purchase avionics viability programme (AVP) upgrades for two EC-X Compass Call cross-deck aircraft, after the FY17 continuing resolution delayed the jets’ cross-deck, the document states. Another $20 million would fund programme depot maintenance for one EC-130H and $18 million would fund spares including one engine.

Although the cross-deck effort claims to switch existing technologies on to a new aircraft, the USAF’s wish list supports $20.2 million for baseline 3 advanced radar countermeasure system (ARCS) software, $5.5 million for a cognitive electronic warfare effort and $24.6 million to increase purchases of mission and support equipment.

The A-10, which once again dodged retirement in the FY2018 base budget, received additional money for new wings. Following a $20 million Congressional add in the FY2017 budget, the Warthog would receive $83 million in FY2018 to start the programme at four wings, documents state.

For its future programmes, the USAF outlined additional funding for its next generation air dominance effort, also known as penetrating counterair platform, which focuses on the USAF’s next standoff aircraft to address air superiority gaps. The service requests $30 million for planning and development activities supporting the Air Superiority 2030 Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team (ECCT) flight plan and $147 million for risk reduction to support PCA timelines directed by the flight plan.

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