FY 2013 DoD budget request shrinks, but avionics retrofits get dollars

To no one’s surprise, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Fiscal Year 2013 budget request was down over last year’s as the department was forced by the current economic climate to tighten its belt and streamline military procurement. The DoD cut back on procurement of major programs such as the Joint Stroke Fighter (JSF) and increased its funding for retrofits of current aircraft programs such as the Chinook and Apache helicopters.

DoD requested $525.4 billion overall for FY 2013, down $5.2 billion from FY 2012 enacted numbers. Funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), including missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, were funded separately in the FY 2013 budget request at $88.5 billion, down $26.6 billion from the FY 2012 enacted level of $115.1 billion.

The drop has been expected by military embedded computing suppliers and, as they forecasted, funding continues and even increases in their niche areas such as avionics and unmanned systems. Below are some highlights of aircraft funding from the FY 2013 request.

Overall aircraft funding within the FY 2013 budget request dropped from $54.2 billion in the FY 2012 budget to $47.6 billion in FY 2013 – with $3.8 billion slotted for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Avionics opportunities

Army avionics retrofits and upgrades, which leverage a great deal of Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) hardware and software, will continue to get funding under the FY 2013 budget request. Army rotorcraft retrofit programs funded in the FY 2013 request include upgrades to the AH-64 Apache, CH-47F Chinook, and UH-60 Black Hawk. Funding for the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) also is going forward. (For more military avionics, see the Special Report on page 14, entitled New aircraft platforms get cut back, opening the door for avionics retrofits that leverage COTS hardware and software.)

The AH-64 Block 3 program is broken down into remanufactured and new-build aircraft. The budget request calls for the remanufacture of 40 aircraft and the production of 10 new aircraft in the AH-64 D Longbow Block 3 configuration. Remanufacture is up from $654 million in FY 2012 to $809 million in FY 2013 and new Apache aircraft procurement from $758 million to $1.109 billion in FY 2013. Under the Apache Block 3 program, the Army is adding fire control radar and night vision technology.

Chinook funding in FY 2013 also includes digital cockpit upgrades and a digital data bus to enable the Army to add more communications and navigation equipment. Within the FY 2013 request, the DoD is looking for 25 new Chinook F models and 19 remanufactured/Service Life Extension Program aircraft.

The FY 2013 request continues support for the UH-60 Black Hawk five-year Multiyear Procurement (MYP) contract for FYs 2012-2016, though it is down slightly to $1.305 billion from $1.705 billion in FY 2012. DoD will procure 59 base funded aircraft – this number is down from 72 in FY 2012. UH-60 variants funded include the Utility UH model and the Medical HH model.

Funding for the Light Utility Helicopter program also made it into the FY 2013 budget request. The LUH will replace the UH-1 and the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior A and C models. The FY 2013 budget calls for production of 34 helicopters.

F-35 and F-22

The F-35 JSF program continues to get billions of dollars in the budget, but the numbers are down from last year as the program is restructured to save money. F-35 Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding is down slightly from $2.708 billion in 2012 to $2.699 billion in FY 2013. The FY 2013 budget plans for procurement of 29 aircraft – 31 were procured in FY 2012. The 29 include four Carrier variants for the Navy, six Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variants for the Marine Corps, and 19 Conventional Take-Off and Landing variants for the Air Force.

Overall funding for the F-22 Raptor program is down from $916 million in FY 2012 to $808 million in FY 2013, which continues the fighter’s capability upgrades, which includes Increment 3.1, calling for electronic attack capability, emitter-based geo-location of threat systems, and ground-looking Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) modes. Increment 3.2 will include radar electronic protection, Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS), and intraflight data link improvements.

UAVs

UAV funding for the DoD continues to be important as the department plans to procure 34 Reapers and 19 Gray Eagles to eventually reach a total 65 Predator and Reaper Combat Air Patrols (CAP)/orbits by FY 2017. RDT&E funding also increased from $971 million in FY 2012 to $1.103 billion in FY 2013 for the RQ-4 Global Hawk program as DoD looks to procure three Air Force NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft, payloads, and integrated logistics support for the three aircraft.

John McHale jmchale@opensystemsmedia.com