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US budget recognises value of helicopters, unmanned systems

15th February 2011 - 16:52 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


The US Department of Defense (DoD) is continuing strong funding for its rotary, unmanned and cyber capabilities in its 2012 budget request.

Of the $671 billion proposed defence budget sent to Congress on 14 February for approval, more than $10 billion was budgeted for the modernisation of rotary wing aircraft while $4.8 billion was allocated to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

In making the request, the DoD said it was seeking the optimum balance between capabilities needed for current conflicts and the subsequent support of deployed troops, and those required for modernisation for possible future conflicts.

Speaking at the release of the budget proposal, Maj Gen Philip McGhee, director of the US Army’s budget, said the aircraft procurement request was approximately a billion dollars higher than in previous years.

‘This is mainly due to programme ramp-ups in Gray Eagle, the Apache, and the Enhanced Medium-Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System programmes,’ he said.

Helicopters continue to be ‘essential’ to global US operations, and the request highlights the continued multiyear procurement of rotary aircraft for all three military services.

The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor requires almost a third of the helicopter funding with a $3 billion proposed budget.

This reflects the DoD’s ‘pursuing efforts to define a joint approach for future vertical lift development for all services’. Both the navy and air force operate types of this aircraft.

Another notable helicopter spend is for the army’s HH-60M Pave Hawk, the search and rescue version of its UH-60M Blackhawk platform. The $144 million request for the Pave Hawk is for the procurement of four platforms, which includes one combat loss aircraft.

According to the DoD, it is continuing its ‘strong funding’ for UAVs that enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

The base budget for UAVs is $4.8 billion for 2012. The categories supported by the budget are Global Hawk Class (RQ-4), Predator Class (MQ-1/9), and other low altitude systems.

The proposed Predator and Reaper systems budget has seen an increase, going from $1.6 billion in 2010, to $2.5 billion in 2012. The funding of Global Hawks remains similar to 2010 at $1.7 billion.

McGhee said the DoD is providing funding ‘for the procurement of 36 MQ-1 Gray Eagle UAVs, which will provide us with a dedicated reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition unmanned aerial platform’.

Despite the continued funding for UAV projects, the smaller systems such as Shadow and Raven have seen a continued decrease, with the budget now only at $300 million, a third of what it was in 2010.  

ISR capabilities are being enhanced with the $300 million acquisition of 12 more MC-12 ISR platforms in 2012. The DoD said the type has produced ‘valuable’ battlefield intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another key trend sees $2.3 billion devoted to improving cyber capabilities.

This includes a request for $500 million to cover the four year financing for the manufacture of the Joint Operations Center for the new US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), which is a command subordinate to the US Strategic Command.

Cyber technologies are also being supported within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), as well as for the training of cyber analysts.

The DoD is also supporting the Joint Tactical Radio System with funding going from $1 billion in 2010/11 to $1.6 billion in 2012.

The Shephard News Team


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