The budgetary dogfight between the Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing EA-18G produced two winners in the version of the Fiscal 2015 defence spending bill passed on 10 June by the House Appropriations Committee.
The move by the House committee would allow the Pentagon to acquire 50 fighters overall next year, matching the total approved last year with a split of 29 F-35s and 21 EA-18Gs.The panel will send the bill for a vote by the full House of Representatives after adding four F-35s and 12 EA-18Gs to the funds requested by the Obama Administration, which proposed acquiring 34 F-35s and no EA-18Gs next year.
Although it seems like a proposed increase, buying only 38 F-35s next year would still be four less than the Pentagon had planned prior to the release of the final version of the FY2015 budget proposal.
The EA-18G, however, is offered a potential reprieve from an production shutdown in 2016. Boeing is pitching the F/A-18G or the electronic-jamming EA-18G variant to at least six countries, but a sale could depend on stretching production to at least 2017.
But the additional funding for new fighters did not translate into support for rescuing the Fairchild Republic A-10 fleet, which the US Air Force has proposed to retire in FY2015. The House appropriators did not add funding to keep the A-10 operational beyond this year, leaving the fate of the close air support specialist to the Senate.
Similarly, the panel made no attempt to block the army from moving forward with plans to retire the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and transfer the armed scout mission to the Boeing AH-64D/E Apache fleet.
The Senate appropriations committee has not yet voted on the next year’s defence spending bill. The different version of the House and Senate spending bills then must be reconciled by a conference committee.
Meanwhile, the House appropriators offered hope that the Lockheed U-2 fleet could escape a planned retirement in FY2016.
A report accompanying the House bill notes that the U-2 fleet’s presumed successor – the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk – is not yet equipped to assume the U-2s full mission.
Specifically, the RQ-4 lacks an optical bar camera used to monitor the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, according to the report. Despite Northrop’s claims, the appropriators also remain concerned that the RQ-4 can be “significantly” limited by poor weather and lacks a sensor as good as the U-2’s Goodrich SYERS-2.
The air force, however, is considering keeping a mixed fleet of U-2s and RQ-4s at least temporarily after FY2016, according to the House appropriators report. The committee also requires the air force to submit a “realistic” plan for improving the RQ-4 before it can divest the U-2.
|President's FY 2015 request
|Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
|Boeing EA-18G Growler
|Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey
|Boeing AH-64E Apache
|Boeing CH-47F Chinoook
|Airbus UH-72A Lakota
|Sikorsky U/MH-60 Black Hawk
|Bell Helicopter A/UH-1 Upgrades
|Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye
|Boeing P-8A Poseidon
|General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1C Gray Eagle
|General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper
|Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules
|Boeing KC-46A Pegasus