US Defence Budget for FY 2019
The US President has recently presented the Congress with a proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request, which includes major investment in emerging technologies even as the US military seeks to shift emphasis from ‘counter-terrorism operations’ to potential ‘great-power competition.’ The two-year budget agreement includes $700bn of defence funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and $716bn in FY 2019. Major aerospace programmes in the budget include procurement of 77 F-35As (48 for USAF and 29 for US Navy); 15 KC-46s, 24 F/A-18s; 60 AH-64Es (12 new built and 48 remanufactured); 6 VH-92s; 10 P-8As and 8 CH-53Ks.
The US Navy is set to receive $19 bn for aircraft programmes, an increase of 26%. The Navy has requested 120 new aircraft for 2018 and wants to buy 110 more F/A-18E/Fs over the next five years, while continuing efforts to extend the service of its Super Hornets, including the airframe life extension, conformal fuel tanks, new computers and advanced cockpit displays. R&D funds for the US Air Force amount to $30.4 bn, which will fund programmes including the B-21 bomber and the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) ‘family of systems.’ Other efforts will help develop hypersonic strike weapons (both the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Capability and the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon), autonomous technology including swarming drones, cyber-integrated defences, electronic warfare, artificial intelligence and directed energy. The USAF will also continue efforts to field a high-energy laser with a fighter.
The increasing focus on ‘near-peer’ foes is reflected in the emphasis of modernised nuclear weapons, including purchase of precision-guided tail-kits for the B61-12 tactical nuclear bomb and development of the AGM-180/181 Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO, $0.6bn) that will arm the B-21 and B-52H. For the latter bomber, a longawaited re-engining programme should be kick-started with the help of $399m of funding. The Stratofortress is set to outlive the B-1B and B-2A, according the Air Force’s new ‘bomber vector’ proposal, which envisages incremental retirement of the Lancer and Spirit once the B- 21 arrives in the mid2020s. The Air Force had previously intended to operate the B-1 and B-52 until 2040, with the B-2 continuing till 2058. Surprisingly, the US aims to reduce planned purchases of the F-35 in the short-term, down from 341 to 329 aircraft in FY 2018-21.