Cuts Threaten Air Force’s Next-Gen Weapons: Donley

Cuts Threaten Air Force’s Next-Gen Weapons: Donley

The U.S. Air Force is pursuing next-generation aircraft such as the F-35 fighter jet and new long-range bomber despite the threat of automatic budget cuts, the service’s top civilian said.

The Air Force this year may buy as many as five fewer Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-35As for a total of 15 aircraft rather than 19 because of automatic cuts, known as sequestration. It may be forced to make a similar move in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

The service wants to award contracts to begin developing the so-called Long Range Strike Bomber in the next year or two, according to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. But that program and others designed to upgrade its aging fleets of aircraft are threatened by the across-the-board spending reductions.

There will be “widespread changes” to modernization accounts if the budget cuts continue, Donley said during an April 24 breakfast with reporters.

The Defense Department faces $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade. That’s in addition to almost $500 billion in defense reductions already projected under 2011 deficit-reduction legislation. The first installment of automatic cuts began March 1 and sliced about $41 billion from the fiscal 2013 defense budget.

The Pentagon earlier this month unveiled a base budget of $527 billion for fiscal 2014, beginning Oct. 1. The figure doesn’t include the next round of reductions, which may total $51 billion and reduce spending to $476 billion, excluding war funding.

The Air Force doesn’t know how much of that reduction it will have to absorb if Congress and the White House can’t agree on an alternate plan to reduce the federal deficit, Donley said.

“There is no fixed or established share at this point,” he said. “But we all realize there are significant adjustments that would have to be made.”

The situation unnecessarily complicates the task of upgrading the service’s aging fleets of aircraft, Donley said. From fighters and bombers to tankers and unmanned aircraft, “just about every mission area you can think of, weapons system you can think of, needs to be modernized,” he said. “We actually are not able to do what we know needs to be done.”

The new bomber, designed to replace a portion of the fleets of B-52 heavy bombers and B-2 stealth bombers, “remains one of our most important priorities,” Donley said. The Air Force wants to build 80 to 100 of the aircraft, with the first expected to enter service in the mid-2020s, he said. Each plane is expected to cost about $550 million.

“We’re still a year or two away from those what I would call the down-select decision,” Donley said, referring to contract award. “We’re stable in terms of how we’re approaching this project. There have been no major changes in design or requirements.”

The Air Force wants the bomber to carry nuclear weapons, fly farther with better fuel efficiency and employ a suite of advanced communications and radar systems to operate in contested airspace. It will eventually have the option to fly unmanned, like a drone.

Beyond that, many of the details of the program are unknown. A so-called initial capabilities document has been drafted for the bomber, the details of which are classified.

“We’re going to protect the capabilities of this airplane, I think, several years down the road because we think the capabilities that it will have represent advantages not unlike those that we’ve enjoyed with the B-2 and we have not talked about B-2 capabilities in great depth,” Donley said. “We did not reveal the existence of the B-2 program until it rolled out of a hangar. We’re years from that.”

Meantime, the operational costs of the F-35 are unlikely to affect how many of the aircraft the service intends to buy, Donley said.

The cost of flying the F-35 “will be slightly higher than the F-16, there’s no doubt about that in my mind,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a link there between projected operational costs and how many we’re going to buy.”

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Does anyone seriously believe that by the time the next generation manned bomber is ready that any manned bomber will be able to survive in contested air space? Or that these things will “only” cost $550 million apiece? Forget the manned bomber. Go straight to cheaper, if necessary expendable drones. As for uncontested air space, like Afghanistan, why not replace aging B52’s with C17’s fitted out to loiter at high altitude with a load of JDAMs? But what do I know? I’m just a taxpayer.

With sequestration the race to the bottom continues. China is laughing. Can somebody please raise my (our) taxes so that we have more funds for a strong military. Freedom is never free. GOP, you should know that. You are loosing your core voters and they won’t come back.

I think this title should be reversed. It should be titled “Next Gen Weapons Threaten Air Force’s Budget.”

B-52s are already cost-effective, without cutting into the strategic airlift fleet just to drop GPS-guided bombs on people.

I’m sure Boeing would approve, since it would mean more C-17’s procured…

This is a paradox. all these weapons programs when what we need to know is what wars do we want to fight? It wont be Afghanistan again or Iraq 3.0 I dont see Syria and Obama’s a wimp on Iran. So we wont be needing BIG Army crap like GCV ICC and USMC’s AAV. The new threat is North Korea China and other Pacific wars. So the Navy and Air Force should get preference in US revamps of weapons. Our Bradley and M-4 and even the AAV-7 will do the job fine for another decade. Where as Navy Destroyers and subs are worn out and need to be refitted or replaced. A new bomber is needed with the B-1 being retired first and the number of B-2s is low and the venerable B-52 taking up the slack.

Don’t get me wrong some USAF projects are a joke F-35 is a piece of crap and we could make up for it with F-15 upgrades and reintroduce F-22 production. Navy can can the LCS and work on DDG-1000 Destroyer. The BIGGEST overhaul is needed at the Pentagon to get cost enforcement in place.

Seeing how they are “losing” people like you, it can only be to their benefit.

The only threat to the USAF are empty-suit dilettantes like Donley who could write his total fund of knowledge on air power inside a matchbook with a large-sized crayon.

To begin with, there are a LOT of scenarios between the “if it flies, it dies” IADS and the totally permissive airspace that you describe, and a lot of different missions for each. Consider for a moment that perhaps the most “contested airspace” in 40 years was the Iraqi/Kuwaiti airspace the day before Desert Storm began, at least “on paper” it was. After a concentrated SEAD campaign over the first couple of days, .… well, lets just say that the “contest” was starting to become very one sided. By the time the ground war began, the only “contest” was the race to see who could catch the Iraqi fighters running for Iran! Near the end, your B©-17s probably could have flown missions! If we could ever find a way to give a drone the same flexibility of a manned bomber, I might agree with you, but.… . that day is a lot further in our future than you think. Oh, yes, why is it that you, as a taxpayer, think that a heavy strategic bomber in UAV form would be cheaper to build, and operate? Recent congressional testimony by UAV users (who use the UAVs in missions that COULD be conducted with manned aircraft), pay 3–4 times as much per flight hour for the privilege of going unmanned. As a taxpayer, I cringe at paying that kind of money for the dubious honor of calling the aircraft a “drone”. Now for those “suicide missions” that you hypothesize… bring on the UAVs!

Price of the new stealth bomber designed to replace the B-1, B-2 and B-52 is projected at $550Million a piece; they should maybe think a bit more at possibly $3.5-5Billion each especially if the new bomber will incorporate stealth, supersonic speed and maneuverability like the B-1 as this is what the DoD did with the F-35 by saying it would cost about the same as the F-16 it was replacing despite the fact that the latest F-16 Block 60 is about $105 Million per jet.

We don’t fly anything manned into an unchallenged IADS now, the B2s didn’t go into Libya until 125 TLAMs paid a visit to fixed radar and SAM sites. The initial barrage of stand off munitions will persist. That will take down fixed radar and command and control nodes which will lead to less radar coverage and bigger ‘alleys’ for manned platforms to use. I think the US is about to go forward with a pretty big leap in non kinect options as well, with MALD-J and CHAMPs as known examples, and the over the top EM testing on the X47.

Actually its now over 135 million. Ass to that the cost of making them combat capable around 2017 which means updating the current ones being shipped means they will come in at around 150 million or so.

well, 2014 is coming quicker than you think. My prediction: the GOP will loose the house and never will get it back. Boehner will not be relected nor will Ryan. A permanently democratic controlled congress will guarantee that we will become Europe with a weak military and very high taxes.

Where’ve I heard that before? Oh yes, “the XB-70 shall be cancelled because it cannot survive”. Funny, we’re still using B-52s, B-1Bs, etc.

Doubtful. The Dem’s hold in the Senate is dependent on conservative democrats, and any win in the house would by extension depend on conservative democrats.

It would be a one party system with essentially similar ideology at play, but with far less cross-party partisan rancor. Usually, things work more smoothly within a party, even if the ideologies are off the mean. Usually.

Alternatively, more I-‘s will do better for this country. I-‘s are accountable to their voters, not to a politburo in Washington.

I have to agree with others here. I see a few people here and there saying that the future will not allow for anything to survive contested airspace… and so on. Keep in mind for every new defensive capability developed, we develop a better offensive capability and then improve our planes defensive capability. Knowing that we will always conduct the most sophisticated SEAD operations and use the best electronic warfare ever, that alone discounts all the contested airspace rhetoric. Then add in the strike and standoff weapons that will make entering the most contested areas less than important, the argument is null and void. As if our platform defenses aren’t the best already in jamming, chaff/flares or other decoys, don’t you think the next generation bomber will be built with “contested airspace” in mind? On top of that, even without a major SEAD campaign, our anti-radiation weapons are going to continue to make the enemy nervous about turning their equipment on and they are improving then you have to consider what role cyber platforms may play in disabling air defense networks.

Yes but given your prediction about this last election was completely wrong I think we can move along.

superrapt:: check the history of mid-term elections 4 the out of power party since 1945. It averagers 3–5 senate seats & 6–12 house seats. Thats’ why the shills abound, leading economic indicatores are revised, then revised again back 2 — 3 months. The labor force participation rate is the same as in 1979, with a running avg of 320K unemply claims avg. monthly & then there’s the feds policy!!!. If the election stats hold, it will but the repub’s in an interesting situation & reduce POTUS to spending time with his POTUS. biographer, “about what went wrong because of those evil one’s and relegated 2 flying univ to univ lecturing thr rvrf vAnd & flying

But the damned UAVs are too expensive to serve up to that unchallenged IADS too! But then you have the gist of a solution right there in your comment. Pound the IADS with all of the ECM and decoys you can muster, covering the first wave of inbound stand-off SEAD ordnance(i.e. HARMs, cruise missiles, and JSOWs). After that wave rolls across, you have flights of manned strikers bouncing the rubble and picking off any targets that moved. Do it a few consecutive nights and you could penetrate that ultimate IADS in a Cessna! Of course you might need to orbit a couple BUFFs with JDAMs to re-bounce any rubble that might be in the process of being repaired!

The XB-70, as technologically advanced as it was, was a “one trick pony”. Its defense/offense/ advantage / excuse was a Mach 3 arrival at 60000 ft! When missiles flew at Mach 4 and could reach 100000 ft, it was just a very large, rather ungainly clay pigeon. The BUFF retained viability by going low level, even though that was NOT its design environment. The B-1 took that low level scenario and built an aircraft around it. Until there were widespread Look Down/Shoot Down AI radars and AWACS type airborne radars, RCS did not matter so long as you could go low. Then there was the advent of stealth, then stealth plus ECM, and now it would appear we are back in the SEAD business!

Its a very common cyclic process with military science. Consider for a moment how many times infantry has been declared obsolete when one or another offensive or defensive technology has matured on the land battlefield!

The XB-70 lost a ton of range and speed advantage going low alt…at which point, the question is “why have one?” The accident that took out one of the prototypes was just icing on the cake.

And the B-58 Hustler which preceded it. And the B-1B that came after it.

Indeed, we should have asked for more investment in electronics at the demonstrator level, and resolved the small things like /stealthy tailhook/ a little earlier.

I wonder if people would’ve objected if JSF had electronics essentially those of the most modern teen series fighters, with a future promise of delivering electronics upgrades for the JSF and the teen fighters contracted for independently, instead of being part of the JSF program.

Sure, it’s spending cuts that threaten future weapons programs, not the fact that the DoD always pays the contractors who win weapons contracts more to fail than they do if they provide good working weapons on-time and on-budget. We’re going to pay a contractor $1.10 for every dollar they spend on development and then wonder why development takes so long and why the costs go sky high while we ignore the fact that the same approach to buying weapons has failed continuously for 30 years, but the problem is budget cuts. Our real problem is that we are a nation of hyphenated American special interest groups whose national allegiance can be reliably bought for 30 pieces of silver even as their fellow Americans die in foreign battlefields and by domestic acts of terrorism!

Easily the best summation of the modern military acquisition system I have ever read. The more Lockheed Martin fails on the F-35 (just one of many examples), the more we pay them. Why do we continue to reward this behavior? Because these companies have lobbyists on the Hill, and so generals can have high-paying jobs when they retire.

It’s not so much my solution as the way we actually do things. Doesn’t really matter how pathetic a IADS is, we follow the same formula.

I actually thought Romney could win, but I overestimated the American People

I did not get ur post entirely. I think the GOP will be history because their voters will stay home

Yes I am concerned about the cost as everyone else is. China is working on a new stealth bomber. China also has a way to stop our Carriers in the Formosa Straights. So what do we do. The B-2 there are only 25 of them I hate to say it we need this weapon system. I afraid they will cut personnel rather than weapon systems, if push comes to shove. What we need is a unsinkable aircraft carrier I.E. Taiwan 200 miles to the coast of China. Look at all the money we could save. If 60% of our military power is being based in the pacific, this makes since.

“I guess the bet is on. I predict a Republican President and a democratic house and Senate and expiration of all the Bush tax cuts.”


Like I said, completely wrong.

Hummmm…. and if it is the way we actually do things, and if it actually DOES work, exactly why for God’s sake, would anyone want to change it? The time in which “stealthy” aircraft could operate with impunity in a well-equipped well trained and hostile IADS has gone the same path as the U-2s ability to brazenly cruise through, unarmed and unafraid albeit fully observed„ above the ceiling of the IADS. Stealth was a temporary technological “game changer” but… for each measure there is a countermeasure and… low and behold, those stealth-countering technologies have matured or are maturing. Fortunately, for every countermeasure, there is a CCM, which more often than not, simply involves going back to that sad world where good tactics trumps or re-trumps the new and always invinceable, “super-weapon” technology! :-)

The B-70 lost a lot when it came down off of its lofty, high speed perch. It was very much an optimized point design made to do one thing, and very good at doing that. If there is one quality that has kept the B-52 on the flightline, its flexiblity. It has gone from a high altitude heavy strategic bomber to low altitude tactical bomber and back with a host of generational weapons suite changes. The B-70 just did not have that adaptability in its bones. The Hustler was a slick, futuristic design but it too was a very “point design” aircraft with a technical flaw. When “doing its thing”, a single little burp on either one of the outboard J-79 engines (and at the time they were pretty finickly) could cause a supersonic flat spin that ripped off the rudder, flipped the aircraft with respect to the airflow and tore it apart. I, like every aviation addicted kid of the 60’s owned a Testors model of the B-58, but it was not all that great of an aircraft. I think that simple politics rather than the B-70 prevented the B-1A or B-1B from becoming the aircraft that it could have.

Long Range Ballistic Missiles with nuclear warheads are the strategic bombers of the future.
Hap Arnold-1946

GAD Tuning Bespoke Remapping Great post thanks for the info. We have tweeted this and posted to facebook.

I was at a National Contract Management Association (NCMA) meeting in 1992 when some of the industry lobbyists were trying to lend credence to the crap they were peddling in Washington DC by getting a favorable vote from NCMA membership. They promised that if the government would only start paying profit on development all of our weapons would be highly technologically advanced and it would pave the way for much more competition in contracting because anyone could compete for a contract. There were members at that meeting who predicted it would destroy our military. They predicted that the development periods for weapons would grow exponentially and that contractors would seek to sabotage their own programs before any hardware was built, because why make money building weapons when you can make money with much less investment from designing weapons? The motion to support the type of contracting we have today passed with significant contention in that meeting. Today every single one of the arguments those opposed raised has come true, but the grip of the contractors on the Department of Defense has increased to the point where it is a fundamental assumption by everyone that this way of doing business will continue forever.

Ask the F35 crowd, I’ve got no answers. B3 is nice and all but personally l think the effort should be thrown at munitions. A couple high end delivery options like the B3 and SSGNs are fine, but $400 billion for tacair is silly.

Stealth isn’t gold plating or obsolete as some would wrongly claim. Stealth will rather be a requirement to defeat a sophisticated IADS, stealth working in conjunction with advanced EW, ECM, decoys, and stand-off munitions. An extremely potent combination. Future radar advancements may well degrade the benefits current VLO designs, but physics don’t change. A non-stealthy aircraft will be detected and tracked well before a stealthy one. ECM will also be more effective at protecting a VLO aircraft.

I was not alone. Romney also thought he would win. Maybe I should not hav listened to so much Rush.

All the major players have Nukes, No one used them since 1945. Or 68 Years Why the other side also has Nukes. A Mexican Stand off. But They used B-29 in the Korean Way, B-52 in Vietnam B1B and B2 in the current Wars in the middle east. Since World War 2, this world has been at war more than at peace. All in one word “Nationalism” Our side is right or God is on our side.

We do SEADs from distance with stand off munitions. We don’t fly manned tacair into defended airspace. I did say a high end option like a B3 is fine. $400 billion for tacair is F-in stupid.

The Air Force CAN make the NGB cost $550 mn — and actually a lot less. Look at the A380, which costs only around $380 mn to $400 mn per plane even though it is a MUCH more complex aircraft than the NGB will ever be.

That’s the price of placing everything under one program after a long procurement holiday where you buy very few new fighters. The Chinese and Russians are introducing their own stealth designs if you were hoping upgraded F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s would be enough until… what exactly? When and what would you replace those with?

The B-3 would be the high-end option if the goal was a hypersonic bomber or a VLO supersonic design. A subsonic VLO aircraft is the more conservative and (hopefully) cheaper option.

So much for precision and effects based targeting. Do we need a small fleet of operational bombers for niche roles? Sure. Bunker busting, etc.
we have a fleet of 3–4 operational B2s at any time. Show me where they can’t do any mission out there.
Speaking of the other side, who has bombers and what are they doing with them? Tu-95s being intercepted by F22s? a Blackjack off the line every other year. We bought the B-52s to nuke the soviet union. that was the effect. We replaced the B52s with the minuteman. Now we don’t use them, we merely justify them.

William, are you perhaps a bit into the koolaid? At what range would an F-111 have been detected if he was cruising in at Mach 1.5 and 300–500 ft off the deck (hard ride), no matter what the ground radar might be that was looking for him. Now, translate that into time to an “overflight” of the radar site. Next, pick yourself an RCS for your stealth aircraft, assume that he will fly high and at about Mach 0.7 to minimize aerodynamic heating. Figure using “todays” radar and tomorrow’s high tech radar (figuratively). Now translate those detection ranges into a time to an overflight of the radar. Let me toss in a little math for you. The square root of 1.2 times the altitude in feet is a good guess for the radar horizon. Mach 1.5 is around 14 miles a minute and .75 is about 7 miles a minute. Who gets to overflight first? (now change overflight into a “sweet” launch range for a HARM or a JSOW.)

Now… in that little scenario, how important was reduced RCS vs the flat out speed of the F-111 with its football field RCS? I might be a little pessimistic, and VLO IS most assuredly a capability that CAN be exploited (just like ceiling, airspeed, thrust/weight, etc), its just not the end all of everything that the marketeers and lobbyists make it out to be. Just to avoid playing the same biased “game” that it seems you might want… what if the radar was an AWACS at 15000 ft instead of a ground antenna. Moral of the story, you can “game” the scenario for whatever quality you want to sell, and someone will buy it if they don’t know the physics and tactical options.

I understand what you are saying but it isn’t about stealth alone. It’s another tool in the arsenal, and quite a powerful one. You seem to be implying that the likelihood of stealth being diminished by advancements in radar technology means we should not invest in this aspect of aircraft design.

In an alternate reality where the US wasn’t bankrupt and the USAF had money, a degree of stealth could be designed into an aircraft designed to be a true successor to the F-111 in the interdiction and long range strike roles.

I’ve never said that stealth alone would be enough to defeat very modern IADS. It’s using it in conjunction with jamming and electronic warfare, decoys, standoff weapons, HARMs, etc.

Let me quote what you did say.…“Stealth will rather be a requirement to defeat a sophisticated IADS, stealth working in conjunction with advanced EW, ECM, decoys, and stand-off munitions.” Somewhat of a different spin to me anyway.….

An aircraft is always a compromise on many different axes. Stealth was, not that long ago, marketed as the panacea for all issues. Today, its UAVs, tomorrow … who knows. Sadly, its just the sales pitch, and the embarrassment of eventually realizing, that while the panacea of the day usually has some merit, its also today’s “snake oil” .

I’d replace them with something that was on time and on budget and appropriately designed for the parameters in which it will actually be used. I wouldn’t pay for a lead goose that is years behind schedule and 100% over budget.


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