Two T-38 Talons climb skyward at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The T-X trainer replacement program and the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalization will both receive funds in the 2015 budget request. (Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo / US Air Force)
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The US Air Force funded two secondary modernization programs in its budget request in a move clearly made with an eye towards modernizing for the next decade.
The T-X trainer replacement program and the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalization will both receive funds in the 2015 budget request, according to Maj. Gen. James Martin, the service’s budget director.
The service has maintained that its three largest recapitalization priorities are the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, KC-46A Pegasus tanker and long-range strike bomber. Everything else, service officials have hinted, are what Gen. Mark Welsh has referred to as “nice to have’s.”
At the same token, Welsh indicated that T-X and JSTARS were his top two priorities after those big three during a media appearance in September. Apparently the service felt they had enough financial stability to go ahead and begin the early stages of funding on these programs.
The T-X program will receive $600 million over the course of the five-year period known as the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), Martin said. The service hopes to award a contract in FY 2017, although he did not have information on when a request for proposal might be offered.
The T-X program is a hot commodity, with the winner replacing the service’s aged T-38 trainers with 350 models. There are four competitors for the program, representing the largest players in the defense world: General Dynamics teamed with Alenia Aermacchi on the T-100; the Hawk Advanced Jet Training System is a joint program of BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Link Simulation & Training and Rolls-Royce; Lockheed Martin’s offering of the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50; and the partnership of Boeing and Saab will offer the only “clean-sheet” design for the program.
The JSTARS recapitalization is slated to receive $100 million in FY15, and a total of $2.4 billion over the FDYP. The Air Force has said it hopes to have a new platform, designed around a business jet solution ready to go by 2022, and has already issued the first request for information for part of the program.
The current JSTARS surveillance fleet is based on a modified Boeing 707-300 platform. There are currently 18 platforms in service, but that is likely to shrink shortly — in it’s budget notes, the service says it plans to begin “preparing for near-term right sizing of the JSTARS enterprise to prepare for the fielding of the Next Generation JSTARS.”