US air superiority effort faces uncertain funding
The USAF is trying to stave off a deep budget cut to its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) technology development programme.
While the air force requested $1 billion to continue the secretive initiative in FY2020, the House-passed version of the FY2020 defense appropriations bill would provide only half that amount, citing a ‘classified adjustment.’
The cut, if enacted into law, would delay the programme three years and nix some of its activities, said Lt Gen David Deptula, retired air force. The Senate has not yet taken up its version of the bill.
Maj Gen David Krumm, director of global power programmes at the air force acquisition office, said the service hopes to convince lawmakers to reject the reduction in the final version of the bill.
‘We’re going to engage with Congress to show them our path ahead,’ Krumm said on 7 August, at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event.
The air force envisions NGAD as a family of new and existing manned and unmanned aircraft that are networked together to easily share information and jointly conduct missions. The air force argues it needs to field NGAD by 2030 to maintain air superiority – or control of the skies - in a conflict with the rapidly modernising forces of China or Russia.
Such connectivity is often lacking today. For example, the USAF’s F-22 Raptor fighter has trouble communicating with the US DoD’s new F-35 multirole jet.
While NGAD design concepts are classified, ‘key attributes’ that are expected to emerge from the programme include stealth, advanced electronic warfare capabilities, robust sensors, powerful processors and ‘the ability to share data in a real-time collaborative fashion,’ Deptula said.
Also at the event, Maj Gen Michael Fantini, director of the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability organisation, said the service is forming ten cross-functional teams to tackle ‘problems’ in such areas as multi-domain command and control and position, navigation and timing. Five of the teams have already been created and the other five will be launched by year’s end, added Fantini, who will oversee all of the teams.
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