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AF Budgets $439M For Tanker

The Gates Pentagon fired a clear fiscal signal in its 2010 budget, committing $439 million for the new airborne tanker program and announcing a likely contract award in the middle of fiscal 2010. That money will come out of the RDT and E budget.

The tanker money was close to the only news out of the Air Force budget briefing yesterday since the April 6 speech by the Defense Secretary let most of the Air Force cats out of the bag.

One detail that came a bit clearer during the budget briefings was that the CSAR-X cancellation will force the blue suiters to buy two HH-60 helos they had not planned on purchasing. These choppers, usually bought by the Army, will serve to bolster the Air Force's search and rescue capability in the short term.

Also, OSD Comptroller Robert Hale said the Air Force will take control of the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft program from the Army in the hopes that the fly boys will do a better job of finding "synergies" in the program. “They have, in some cases, similar capabilities,” Hale said. This means the Army will have to dismantle the training and equipping efforts they had established and transfer them to the Air Force.

Here are some of the procurement numbers for 2010. The Air Force will buy: 10 F-35s; zero F-22s (per Gates' speech); five CV-22Bs for Special Operations use; eight C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft; and five HC-130Js. The Air Force also will buy several major space systems. One of the two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites will be procured in 2010, as will a SBIRS High missile warning satellite.

The procurement numbers for those UAVs the Air Force supposedly doesn't like to buy are interesting. MQ-9A Reapers will jump from nine bought in 2009 to 24 in 2010. That will take $489 million. Global Hawk will stay steady at five aircraft.  The MQ-1B Predator numbers will drop from 38 to zip. Finally, Gates’ decision to retire older tactical aircraft should save the Air Force about $355 billion. Roughly 250 planes will be retired and 32,000 flying hours saved.

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