Military Capabilities

US Air Force plans platform cuts for FY 2021 budget request

12 November 2019

The US Air Force could save USD2.9 billion over five years if it retires the B-2 by fiscal year 2023, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in Washington, DC. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

  • The US Air Force is planning platform cuts in its FY 2021 budget to free up money for modernisation
  • The service wants to free up money to prepare for near-peer competition and move away from platforms that were more valuable during previous combat in uncontested airspace

The US Air Force (USAF) will propose retiring platforms as part of its fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) budget request to free up funding for important modernisation efforts.

Will Roper, USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics (AT&L), said on 12 November that the service is assessing which systems have value 5-10 years into the future and which ones will be increasingly applicable to only counter terrorist or low threat environments. The USAF is transitioning to future warfare in contested environments against near-peer nations such as China or Russia and away from battle in uncontested airspace over Afghanistan and Iraq.

Roper said the FY 2021 budget will focus on digital transformation, getting enterprise cloud computing across the USAF, and connecting the development environment among service coding hubs such as Kessel Run and Kobayashi Maru. The USAF, he said, wants to connect these facilities to a combat cloud so it can write code and deploy it at the pace its operators need.

The USAF continues to promote its new strategy of prioritising connecting platforms and operators instead of building world-class weapon systems. In addition to cloud computing, Roper said the service wants software defined radios and networks at the tactical edge so it can respond quickly to new threats. The USAF also wants to create internet-type effects, which Roper said is completely different from the USAF's current model of building dominant platforms that enemies cannot shoot down.

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