F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla., perform an aerial refueling mission off the coast of Florida with a KC-135 Stratotanker. (Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen / Air Force)
The fiscal 2015 budget request uses cutbacks in the current Air Force fleet to make big investments in new systems, including a $1.2 billion increase for new aircraft purchases.
The president’s budget request, released Tuesday, includes $18.5 billion for Air Force procurement, including aircraft, missiles and ammunition.
The biggest increase for the Air Force fleet is the proposed $1.582 billion for the first lot of seven KC-46A “Pegasus” tankers. The increase comes as research spending on the aircraft drops from almost $1.6 billion to $777 million.
The embattled F-35A Joint Strike Fighter sees an increase of about $950 million in procurement for 26 new aircraft. Last year, the service spent $3.319 billion on 19 aircraft.
The budget also includes $1.283 billion for 13 C-130Js, down from $1.732 billion last year.
The Air Force is also proposing buying 12 MQ-9 Reapers, which would eventually completely replace the service’s fleet of MQ-1 Predators.
The increase in procurement funds comes from proposed cutbacks in other parts of the Air Force’s fleet, including cutting all A-10s and U-2s. Lawmakers have vowed to protect the Warthogs.
The budget proposal states, however: “The A-10C does not possess the necessary survivability to remain viable in contested environment. Additionally, fiscal constraints required the Air Force to prioritize multi-role legacy over single mission platforms.”
The 2015 request recommends replacement of two aging systems, the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and the T-38C Talon trainer.
The Air Force has 16 E-8Cs, which first deployed in 1991 and are based on a modified Boeing 707-300 series airframe. The new version would be based on “an affordable commercially available aircraft” to reduce operation and sustainment costs by 27 percent, according to the proposal. The replacement aircraft is expected to reach initial operating capability in 2022.
The service has 546 total T-38Cs, which are used to train the service’s pilots. The fleet is among the service’s oldest, having first deployed in 1961.