By David Small, Director of Communications and Air Force Affairs
The 2010 National Defense Authorization Bill conference report was passed by the Senate last night. The bill will now go to the President for signature. Below is a synopsis and analysis of items included in the bill of interest to the Reserve Officers Association Air Section.
Report on the procurement of 4.5 generation fighter aircraft: The bill contains a provision that would report on various aspects of potential procurement of 4.5 generation fighter aircraft. This is a reflection of Congress’ stance that the Air Force's investment strategy of transition to a smaller, more flexible, lethal and capable strike fighter force will be challenging. As the Air Force implements that strategy, Congress expects the Air Force to analyze the viability of procuring additional 4.5 generation fighter aircraft under a multiyear contract, specifically looking at F–15s, F–16s, and F–18s that have advanced radar, data-link and avionics capabilities and the capability to deploy advanced armaments. The Air Force has been very vocal in the past about not funding 4.5 generation fighters; however this was previous to the decision to end the F-22 production line this summer. Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz said “Why would I want to dissipate a limited pool of resources on a 4.5 generation fighter, when I can purchase a fifth generation platform?” Procurement of 4.5 generation fighters will significantly affect the Air National Guard. While the ANG does not currently support such an acquisition, their stance is primarily to stay in line with the total force opinion. Gen Wyatt might as well have crossed his fingers and winked when he spoke at the AFA Symposium on this topic, leaving the audience to understand he really wouldn't mind some 4.5 generation fighters!
Aircraft funding authorizations:
- $192.3 million, for F-22s modifications.
- $440 million, to support the contract for the KC-X air tanker program
- $319 million for 8 Joint Cargo Aircraft
- $358 million for 4 C-130Js
- $437 million for 5 CV-22s.
F-22 export version: Okay, I’m cheating by putting this topic in here because it wasn’t mentioned in the Authorization bill, but might be a part of the Appropriations bill if the Senate has its way. Question for readers: Should the Air Force be burdened with the acquisition and development of an export version of an aircraft they couldn’t buy more of when they have so much else on their plate? What is the benefit? It would keep the F-22 line open to bridge the fifth generation fighters until the JSF is in full production, but is that worth it given other acquisition priorities?
Limitation on retirement of C–5: The NDAA contained a provision preventing the Air Force from retiring any C–5 aircraft until certain conditions are met regarding the operational testing of the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Reengining Program (RERP). They also want to see the economic and risk analyses leading to any decision to retire these aircraft. Read ROA’s resolution regarding the modification of C-5s. The bill does not change the Air Force’s current strategic airlift force structure from the 316 (213 C-17s and 111 C-5s) aircraft on the books, even though the Defense appropriations bill will purchase between 3 (House) and 10 (Senate) C-17s. This language has significant implications for the Guard and Reserve who fly the oldest C-5 aircraft, which are the last in line for the RERP program. This inclusion is a first step toward the Air Force’s ability to retire these aircraft and replace them with the expected additional C-17s proposed in the appropriations bill.
Next generation bomber aircraft: The bill declares the United States support to develop next-generation bomber technologies. Read ROA’s resolution regarding a new heavy bomber. Really? for something that was nicknamed the 2018 bomber, I should hope we had been a little further along with this program before the SECDEF put the kabash on it last April.
C-130 Aviation Modernization Program: Couldn’t find it? That’s because it wasn’t included. Despite ROA’s resolution advocating the need to continue this program, the Congress did not authorize money toward it this year. Read a more in depth blog about this topic by clicking here.
F-35 Alternative Engine: The NDAA contained funding for the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine as an alternate to the Pratt & Whitney F135 that currently powers the F-35. The Air Force has publicly stated it does not support an alternative engine. The Administration has said the alternate engine might engage a veto, but CQ Today reports that the President Obama now may sign the policy bill with the F136 funding intact—waiting to kill it through the spending bill that will follow shortly. Who will fall on their sword first?
National Guard and Reserve Equipment: This section authorizes $600 million ($150 million less than last year) for NGREA, in stark contrast to the currently proposed Senate appropriations bill which includes $1.5 billion and its House counterpart with only $500 million for this account. That number, broken down, stands to provide $135 million to the Army Reserve; $70 million each to the Air Force and Navy Reserve; $50 million to the Marine Corps Reserve; $1 billion to the Army National Guard and $175 million to the Air National Guard. These figures are over double last year’s numbers. We are currently waiting to see the conference report on the appropriations bill, but it is unfavorable to see a reduced authorization. Read ROA’s resolution regarding NGREA.
Manpower: The authorization bill increased the Air Force Reserve by 2,100 billets to coincide with the significant increase in the active duty end strength. Additionally, the number of Air Reserve Technicians and AGR billets in both the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve increased considerably over other services in reaction to the active duty end strength change. Apparently the browbeating to increase the size of the Reserve concurrent with the Active Duty increase worked. Gen Stenner will add nearly 4,000 billets over the next three years if we stick to the current presidential budget plan.