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Pentagon budget 2020: Expert sees US Air Force ‘second tier’ programmes as ones to watch

01 February 2019
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Key Points

  • USAF second tier programmes are important to watch in the budget to see if they mesh with the NDS
  • Previous budget requests were hampered by sudden reductions and increases in funding, leading to non-strategic decisions

The US Air Force's (USAF's) "second tier" programmes such as the Boeing T-X advanced pilot training system will be important to watch in the fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020) budget to see how they mesh with the National Defense Strategy (NDS) as this could drive investment decisions, according to an expert.A former Pentagon official believes the USAF's T-X trainer programme is one to watch for the FY 2020 budget to see how it meshes with the NDS. (Boeing)A former Pentagon official believes the USAF's T-X trainer programme is one to watch for the FY 2020 budget to see how it meshes with the NDS. (Boeing)

Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think-tank in Washington, DC, and a former Pentagon acquisition official, said on 31 January that the USAF budget is unlikely to see rapid change as its top priorities - such as the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long-range strike bomber (LRSB), the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker - are already in sync with the NDS as they are already geared towards peer competition against adversaries such as China and Russia.

However, he said these second tier programmes, which also include the replacement for the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), space capabilities, and light attack aircraft, are important to watch to see how they can be incorporated into the existing force. Although the USAF has a "lot on its plate" with these first tier programmes as they take up a large portion of the budget, Hunter believes the service will be able to afford these second tier programmes.

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