In 2024 Funds, USAF Pushes Main New Plane Begins

Among the many new plane applications the Air Power included in its fiscal 2024 funds request are uncrewed, autonomous wingmen for its fighters, a next-generation tanker program, a fast-as-possible substitute for its aged E-3 AWACS air battle administration jets, and a brand new airborne command submit.  

The service can also be persevering with improvement of the Subsequent-Technology Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter and including 72 new in-production F-35s and F-15EXs. To pay for all of it, USAF is seeking to divest some 310 airplanes. 

Air Power Secretary Frank Kendall advised reporters the Collaborative Fight Plane program is a “main new begin on this funds,” with $522 million in analysis, improvement, check and analysis funding; a tenfold enhance over the earlier quantity. Eventually week’s AFA Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colo., Kendall revealed that the service is notionally pursuing 1,000 CCAs, to reinforce some 200 NGADs and 300 F-35s. 

In a March 10 funds transient, Kendall stated manned/unmanned teaming demonstrations so far “persuade us that this is smart and [is] one thing we may obtain.” The CCA is meant as an autonomous flying wingman to crewed fighters, offering additional sensors, weapons, and “inexpensive mass” with out demanding extra pilots.   

Manufacturing of CCAs is deliberate earlier than the tip of the last decade, Kendall stated, with preliminary operational functionality projected to be roughly akin to the NGAD fighter regardless of coming into improvement later. The $522 million within the funds is “a fairly important funding within the first 12 months,” he added. The Pentagon didn’t present out-year funding profiles with its March 13 funds announcement. 

Kendall stated he’s inspired by self-funded work executed by business on CCAs. 

“There’s been a variety of IRAD (Unbiased Analysis and Growth cash) spent since we began speaking about this way more critically,” he stated, and the planning determine of 1,000 CCAs “I feel, reinforces that,” and can encourage extra business funding, he added. 

The CCA program will start with a contest, Kendall defined, however there is no such thing as a set timeline for when a winner might be decided. The CCA may also be “nominally one, nevertheless it might be extra” than one kind of uncrewed plane , Kendall stated—he beforehand has stated every manned fighter may have as much as 5 CCAs, however at AWS stated preliminary planning could be for 2 per fighter. In a separate funds briefing, performing Division of the Air Power undersecretary Kristyn E. Jones stated two CCAs could be “a ground,” with extra anticipated. 

“How lengthy we’ll carry multiples” of contractor designs “will rely upon the affordability of that as we go ahead,” Kendall stated. 

“It is a severe program,” Kendall added. “In the event you look out over our five-year [plan], it’s a multi-billion greenback program. And that is headed in direction of manufacturing and fielding; it’s structured to do this.” He stated the “intent” is that CCAs will value “a fraction of the price of an F-35,” which have a unit value of about $80 million. “We’ve bought sufficient work behind us that we predict that’s a really cheap purpose,” he stated. 

Andrew Hunter, Air Power acquisition government, introduced on the AWS convention that the Air Power is pursuing a Subsequent-Technology Air refueling System (NGAS), which can get underway this 12 months with an evaluation of alternate options, which the Air Power funded with about $8 million in fiscal 2024. 

The NGAS, nonetheless undefined, is predicted to be a stealthy tanker in a position to function and survive in contested airspace. Hunter and Kendall additionally stated that the interim tanker purchase after 179 KC-46s are delivered are additionally more likely to be KC-46s, however solely 75 of those next-increment of tankers are deliberate, versus the 150 initially anticipated. After the 179, Boeing may begin delivering a considerably upgraded KC-46 circa 2032.   

Procurement & Analysis 

Plane Kind # of Airframes
B-21  Categorised 
F-15EX  24 
F-35  48 
KC-46  15 
TOTAL At the very least 94 
Supply: Air Power funds paperwork

Though the Air Power solely requested 43 F-35s in fiscal ’23, it’s again to asking for 48 in FY’24. Along with its request for twenty-four F-15EXs, it reaches the purpose of 72 new fighters in FY’24; a quantity USAF officers say is the minimal wanted to maintain the age of its fighter fleet from rising to unsustainable ranges. At 72 per 12 months, the Air Power can maintain its fighter fleet to a median age of about 29 years outdated. 

The service would additionally purchase 15 KC-46 tankers in fiscal ’24, seven MH-139 VIP/missile area assist helicopters and one E-11 Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) plane. 

One plane that didn’t get any procurement funding within the funds is the T-7 coach, which has been delayed as a consequence of escape system points. The Air Power has stated deliveries, initially slated for 2024, will slip to 2026. 

With E-3 AWACS plane availability quickly declining as a consequence of elements shortages, the Air Power is transferring to exchange it as shortly as doable with the E-7A Wedgetail, additionally constructed by Boeing. The service requested $681 million for the E-7 in FY’24, up from $421 million a 12 months in the past. On the AWS convention, Kendall stated the service checked out “accelerating” the E-7 however decided it’s transferring as quick as it may well, with the primary plane as a consequence of arrive for service circa 2027.      

To interchange its rapidly-obsolescing E-4B Nationwide Airborne Operations Heart, the Air Power is asking for $889 million to develop a Survivable Airborne Operations Heart, a big bump from the $98 million it acquired for the hassle in 2023. 

The NGAD program is requested for $1.933 billion in RDT&E, up from $1.658 billion enacted for ’23.  For F-35 RDT&E, the Air Power asks $1.372 billion within the new funds, in pursuit of Block 4 capabilities, up from $1.098 billion a 12 months in the past. 

RDT&E for the brand new B-21 bomber declines considerably, from $3.144 billion in 2023 to $2.984 billion in 2024, as that program begins its transition from improvement to manufacturing. Manufacturing funds for the Raider, from accompanying funds paperwork, have been pegged at $1.617 billion, however portions weren’t mentioned, though Jones repeated earlier feedback that six plane are in varied levels of manufacturing.  

Elsewhere within the bomber fleet, the Air Power desires to spice up B-52 modernization, with new engines and a radar improve. R&D will increase for these efforts to $857 million requested for ’24, up some $134 million over final 12 months. 


Aircraft Kind # of Airframes 
A-10 42
A-29 3
B-1 1
C-130H 2
E-3 2
E-8 3
EC-130H 2
EC-130J 4
F-15C/D 57
F-22 32
HH-60G 37
KC-10 24
MQ-9 (Block 1) 48
RQ-4 1
T-1 52
Supply: Air Power funds doc

The Air Power is seeking to divest 310 plane in fiscal 2024, based on Maj. Gen. Michael A. Greiner, deputy assistant secretary for funds and comptroller of the Air Power. 

“Most of those are continuations from current authorities” for divestiture granted to the Air Power by Congress final 12 months, he stated. 

The 310 embody 32 F-22 Block 20s, which Kendall famous “we requested for final 12 months, and didn’t get.” But regardless of these deliberate divestments, the service can also be asking for $726 million to develop functionality upgrades for the fighter, versus the enacted 2023 determine of $560 million. These upgrades are identified to incorporate an infrared search and observe system, upgraded radar, the AIM-260 Joint Superior Tactical Missile and different enhancements to maintain it related and credible within the air superiority function earlier than the NGAD comes on-line, circa 2030. 

As well as the F-22s, the Air Power additionally desires to retire its remaining 24 aerial refueling KC-10s; 57 F-15C/Ds fighters; 37 HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters; 48 MQ-9 Reaper Block 1s, and 52 T-1 trainers. Greiner stated the Air Power desires to scale back the E-3 Sentry AWACS stock to 18 plane, which suggests two extra will depart the stock this 12 months. 

If all of the Air Power’s divestiture requests are honored by Congress, the ’24 funds will zero out the KC-10 tanker, E-8 Joint STARS, EC-130J Commando Solo and A-29 gentle assault plane inventories. 

Plane Delivered in 2024

Plane Kind # of Airframes
C-130J 2
E-11 1
F-15EX 10
F-35A 45
HH-60W 19
KC-46 20
MC-130J 12
MQ-9 (Block 5) 10