The US Air Force (USAF) has presented its fiscal year 2017 president’s budget request for $120.4bn, which it is using to support its modernisation and mission readiness programmes, as well as the force strength of 492,000 personnel.
A major decision taken by the USAF is to cut the production of F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighter to 43, from the previously planned 48, with $10.1bn allocated in FY 2017 for 43 F-35As for the air force, 16 F-35Bs for the marine corps and 4 F-35Cs for the navy.
Another Lockheed Martin product, C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, is also facing a cut as the USAF has decided to lower the procurement by three, to 11 jets during FY17. C-130J will eventually replace the C-130Hs.
Air Force budget director Maj. Gen. Jim Martin said: "Unfortunately, in this budget, we had to sacrifice modernisation for current readiness, and, as a result, were forced to delay five F-35s, some fourth-generation modifications, and delay completion of the recapitalication effort of the C-130H in fiscal 2017."
The budget request has allocated $1.4bn for long-range strike bombers, and $3.1bn to buy 15 KC-46A Pegasus refueling tankers.
The ransition of low-altitude close air support aircraft has been postponed by two years to 2022, enabling a larger near-term force and investment in legacy capabilities.
The restructured unmanned carrier-launched air surveillance and strike (UCLASS) programme, now renamed the carrier based aerial refueling system (CBARS), will receive $89m in FY 2017.
Towards its personnel, the USAF proposes a 1.6% pay raise, and plans to add approximately 100 basic training and tech training instructors, and offers a skills retention bonus for critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance and battlefield Airmen.
The budget also supports advance weapons schools and combat exercises such as Red Flag and Green Flag, 60 RPA combat lines, and continues to establish 39 cyber teams.
The USAF will continue the block buys of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency System satellite vehicles 5 and 6 and Space Based Infrared System 5 and 6. It will fund five Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services.
Image: The USAF cut F-35A procurement by five. Photo: © Lockheed Martin Corporation.