Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress

Order Code IB92115 CRS Issue Brief for Congress Received through the CRS Web Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress Updated March 16, 2006 Christopher Bolkcom Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress CONTENTS SUMMARY MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS Background Tactical Aircraft in the U.S. Military Major Tactical Aircraft Programs Implications of Near-Term Decisions Analysis: Key Issues to Consider Affordability Capability Required Force Structure Service Roles and Missions Defense Industrial Base Modernization vs. Transformation Congressional Action FY2006 Congressional Action IB92115 03-16-06 Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress SUMMARY This Issue Brief examines DOD’s four largest tactical aircraft modernization programs. The background section provides a brief description of each program, and a discussion of how tactical aircraft fit into military air operations: the missions they typically perform and how they contrast to longer-range combat aircraft. may have important long-term implications. The F/A-18E/F is in full-rate production. The V-22, and the F-22 are now in transition from research-development (R&D) to procurement and could remain in production for decades. The next-generation combat aircraft that are expected to result from joint-service efforts now getting underway through the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program might be in production through the 2020s. Decisions about the funding of these programs will influence which U.S. aircraft manufacturers survive in the aviation industry, and may well affect the division of combat roles and missions among the services in the next century. The Analysis section examines a number of policy issues including affordability, capability required, force structure, service roles and missions, industrial base, and transformation. The paper concludes with a synopsis of recent congressional action on these programs. The Defense Department plans to buy the F-22 fighter for the Air Force, the F/A-18E/F fighter/attack plane for the Navy, and the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft for the Marines and Air Force special operations, as well as pursue a joint-service program to develop a multirole Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft in three variants, some of which might be operational around 2012. Congress has questioned these tactical aircraft modernization plans on grounds of affordability and requirements. Because of the lack of consensus about future threats and defense requirements, there has been increasing skepticism about the need for some of these aircraft programs on grounds of cost and affordability, military requirements and force levels, and effects on the defense industrial base. Debate has also emerged on the need to balance modernization needs with military transformation goals. Decisions in Congress and the Defense Department regarding these aircraft programs Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress IB92115 03-16-06 MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS The Bush Administration’s FY2007 defense budget included the following requests for tactical aircraft programs: F-22 — $2.7 billion; JSF — $5.2 billion; F/A-18E/F — $2.3 billion; EA-18G — $1.2 billion; V-22 — $2.2 billion. BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS Background Tactical Aircraft in the U.S. Military Tactical or theater aircraft — fighters, fighter/attack planes, and attack planes — constitute a major component of U.S. military capability. They played a prominent role in the 1991 Gulf War, and are expected to play a leading role in contemporary and future military operations, particularly in situations where U.S. leaders hope to limit or avoid the commitment of U.S. ground forces. Operation Allied Force, the 1999 war in Kosovo, may have fueled these expectations. During this 78-day war, hundreds of coalition aircraft attacked Serbian targets, losing only two aircraft in the process. Navy tactical combat aircraft also played a prominent role in Operation Enduring Freedom, the war in Afghanistan. Tactical aviation accounts for a significant part of the defense budget, counting the costs of developing, procuring, and operating aircraft, engines, avionics, and weapon systems, and personnel, training, and administrative costs. The U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps had a total inventory of some 5,000 fixed-wing tactical combat aircraft in 2005. Of these, the Air Force operated about 74% and the Navy and the Marine Corps about 26%. In addition to these fixed-wing combat aircraft, the DOD operates about 1,300 armed helicopters.1 This issue brief focuses on fixed-wing aircraft programs: the Air Force F-22, the Navy F/A-18E/F, the Marine Corps V-22, and the Joint Strike Fighter. These aircraft have been traditionally referred to as “tactical”aircraft to distinguish them from the Air Force’s B-52, B-1, and B-2 “strategic” bombers. When applied to aircraft, “tactical” generally refers to smaller and shorter-ranged planes, while “strategic” generally refers to larger and longer-ranged aircraft. Both tactical and strategic types are operated by USAF’s Air Combat Command, which in 1992 replaced Strategic Air Command (SAC) and Tactical Air Command (TAC). Reflecting the post-Cold War demise of SAC and TAC, tactical types are sometimes referred to as “theater aircraft.” Fighter planes primarily engage in air-to-air combat, either at close/visual range or at ranges requiring radar-guided missiles and stand-off munitions (including “precision-guided munitions”/PGMs). Attack planes focus on air-to-surface combat operations such as close air support (CAS) for friendly ground forces engaged in battle, battlefield air interdiction (BAI) against enemy forces behind the lines, and deep interdiction (also known as “deep strike”) against the enemy’s military, political, and industrial infrastructure. Fighter/attack 1 See CRS Report RL32447, Military Helicopter Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, by Christian Liles and Christopher Bolkcom. CRS-1 IB92115 03-16-06 planes (also known as fighter-bombers, strike fighters, or multirole fighters) perform both air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. Long-range bombers and cruise missiles can also be used in BAI and deep strike operations. Different air-to-air and air-to-surface missions and different basing modes (sea- vs. land-based) give rise to different performance requirements for combat aircraft, making use of a common aircraft for different missions and services difficult, if not impossible, without major modifications. Major Tactical Aircraft Programs In response to an emerging congressional consensus and recommendations by the Defense Department’s 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of force structure requirements, the Clinton Administration decided in late 1993 to continue two major aircraft programs then underway — the F-22, a low-observable-to-radar (stealthy) fighter for the Air Force; and the F/A-18E/F version of the F/A-18 fighter/attack plane for the Navy — while also pursuing new aviation technology initiatives through the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program, which later evolved into the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The Clinton Administration also supported procurement of the Marine Corps’ V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, which had been opposed by the first Bush Administration on grounds of affordability. The George H. Bush Administration’s plan for modernizing U.S. tactical aircraft had focused on four key aircraft programs: (1) the F-22, (2) the F/A-18E/F, (3) the AFX, a stealthy attack/fighter aircraft to be developed for the Navy and Air Force, and (4) the MultiRole Fighter (MRF), either a new aircraft or an upgraded version of the F-16 fighter/attack plane for the Air Force. Since there was no funding for the MRF and only minimal funding for the AFX, their rejection by the BUR in 1993 was more a recognition of their demise than the termination of viable programs. The Defense Department’s first Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), released in May of 1997, recommended buying fewer tactical aircraft than was then projected, with reduced annual procurement of the F-22 and the F/A-18E/F and accelerated procurement of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Major tactical aircraft programs since the early 1990s are noted below. F-22 Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, features a stealthy design, advanced engines by Pratt and Whitney, and new avionics by Hughes and other subcontractors. It will replace the F-15 as the Air Force’s air superiority fighter. Like the F-15E, the F-22 will also have air-to-surface attack capabilities. The program was in competitive prototyping from 1986 to 1991 and then entered engineering and manufacturing development (EMD), with prototype flights beginning in 1997. On September 14, 2001 the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) announced its much-awaited decision that the F-22 program had successfully completed EMD and was ready to move on to low-rate initial production. On December 15, 2005, the Air Force announced that a 12-aircraft detachment of F-22s had achieved initial operational capability (IOC). In recent years, the Air Force has stated a requirement for 381 Raptors. The Air Force’s FY2007 budget request, however, presents a plan to fund the production of F-22s through FY2010, for a total inventory of 183 aircraft. This proposed funding plan has raised concern among many, because it proposes to incrementally fund procurement and may require congressional waivers of statutory acquisition requirements. CRS-2 IB92115 03-16-06 F/A-18F Super Hornet F-22 Raptor The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, built by Boeing (since its acquisition of McDonnell Douglas in 1997) and Northrop Grumman, is a larger and more expensive version of the current F/A-18C/D fighter/attack plane. It has more range/payload than that of existing F/A-18s and more potential for future modernization. The E/F version will replace the Navy’s older F/A-18s in fighter/attack missions and will eventually assume some missions now performed by F-14 fighters and formerly by A-6 attack planes. In May 1992, the program entered EMD, with prototypes beginning flight-tests in late 1995 and procurement funding beginning in FY1997. In December 2003, the Navy awarded a five-year, $8.6 billion multi-year procurement contract for 210 F/A-18E/Fs to the Boeing Company. Procurement of 462 F/A-18E/Fs is currently projected, at a cost $43.9 billion current-year dollars (actual past expenditures and projected future costs) as estimated in September, 2005.2 At least 90 electronic attack versions of the aircraft — the EA-18G will be procured as a replacement for the Navy’s aging EA-6B Prowler fleet. A separate $1 billion contract was also awarded to develop the EA-18G, which is estimated to cost a total of $8.6 billion. F/A-18E/F squadrons from the aircraft carriers Abraham Lincoln and Nimitz participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) began in FY1994 as the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program, which emerged after cancellations of the AFX and MRF. The JSF program seeks to design, develop, and produce a family of affordable joint-service fighter/attack planes, with conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) aircraft for the Air Force and Navy and short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.K. Royal Navy. In February 2004, Air Force leaders announced that the Air Force would also procure some number of STOVL variants to improve its ability to prosecute the close air support (CAS) mission and reduce the potential implications of uncertain access to forward bases. 2 See CRS Report RL30624, Military Aircraft, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by Christopher Bolkcom. CRS-3 IB92115 03-16-06 Participation is related to the financial contributions to the program by these governments, the British government being the major non-U.S. contributor of development funds. Eight foreign countries have pledged funds to the JSF program. A number of other countries are being considered for either JSF partnership or as purchasers. From1997-2001 the program was in a competitive design phase involving prototypes built by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. On October 26, 2001, the DOD announced that Lockheed Martin won the competition, and would move on to the production phase. In May 2005, DOD approved a plan to revamp the JSF program to account for developmental difficulties. The revised plan entails stretching out development efforts 16 to 22 months, adding $11.7 billion in costs and cutting the number of aircraft the Defense Department will buy. As now projected, some 2,458 JSFs would be procured, with low rate production starting in 2008 and operational service to begin around 2013 The JSF program is currently estimated (September 2005) at $256.6 billion.3 As part of its FY2007 budget request, DOD proposed to cancel the F136 alternate engine program. This program was initiated by Congress in FY2006. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) V-22 Osprey The V-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft built by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing Helicopters primarily for the U.S. Marine Corps to replace their aging helicopters that transport troops and equipment into combat zones. The Air Force also wants the V-22 for its special forces and the Navy is considering the Osprey for search and rescue missions. The V-22’s distinguishing characteristic is its ability to take off, land, and hover like a helicopter, but also rotate its rotors 90 degrees and fly like a conventional airplane. Although not part of the tactical aircraft modernization program of the early 1990s, the V-22 is in funding competition with these programs. The first production aircraft were procured in FY1997. In September 2005, the V-22 program was estimated by the Defense Department to cost $50.5 billion current-year dollars for development and production of 458 aircraft. While proponents focus on what they believe to be the Osprey’s unique operational 3 See CRS Report RL30563, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program: Background, Status, and Issues, by Christopher Bolkcom. CRS-4 IB92115 03-16-06 capabilities (i.e., long range, high speed, large payload coupled with vertical take off and landing capability) some opponents say that the aircraft’s tilt-rotor technology is not mature and has contributed to a number of V-22 crashes over the past several years. Opponents also challenge whether the Osprey’s operational capabilities will be as big an improvement over modern helicopters as proponents claim. Investigations into the V-22 program, its crashes, and allegations of malfeasance came to a head in the spring of 2001. On May 1, 2001, a Blue Ribbon panel formed by then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen to review all aspects of the V-22 program reported its findings and recommendations during congressional testimony. The panel recommended cutting production to the “bare minimum” while an array of tests were carried out to fix a long list of problems they identified with hardware, software and performance. On July 5, 2001, it was reported that the DOD Inspector General (IG) found evidence that the V-22 squadron at New River, NC, falsified maintenance and readiness records, and in September 2001, three Marines were disciplined. (See CRS Report RL31384, V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft, by Christopher Bolkcom.) After a lengthy hiatus, the V-22 resumed operational flight testing June 2, 2002. In the fall of 2005, the V-22 program achieved some key milestones. In September 2005, DOD’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation announced that the V-22 had successfully completed operational testing and was effective, reliable and capable of conducting its primary missions. Additional testing is still required, the office reported, and additional work is needed in areas such as aircraft countermeasures. This announcement was followed by a letter from the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition to Congress, certifying that the Osprey was operationally fit, and on September 28, the Defense Acquisition Board approved full rate production. DOD’s FY2007 budget request proposed production of 16 V-22 aircraft. This is the first year since the V-22 Blue Ribbon Panel recommendation that DOD has proposed building more Ospreys than the “minimum sustainable rate.” Implications of Near-Term Decisions Decisions in Congress and the Defense Department in regard to these aircraft programs may have important long-term implications. The V-22, and the F-22 are now in transition from research-development (R&D) to procurement and could remain in production for decades. The next-generation combat aircraft that are expected to result from joint- service efforts now getting underway through the JSF program might be in production through the 2020s. Decisions about the funding of these programs will influence which U.S. aircraft manufacturers survive in the aviation industry and may well affect the division of combat roles and missions among the services. Congressional debate on tactical aviation has often reflected desires by the defense committees to assess these programs from a joint and interservice perspective rather than on a program-by-program or service-by-service basis. The JSF program is a prime example of this concern for joint-service development and procurement of weapon systems and equipment. In 1994, the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that “the only affordable long-term modernization plan must maximize commonality, where the Air Force and the Navy procure and operate the same aircraft,” adding that “both the Air Force and the Navy could face the same threats and operate side by side, necessitating a common technological approach” (S.Rept. 103-282, p. 82). During an April 2005 hearing of the CRS-5 IB92115 03-16-06 Senate Airland Subcommittee, witnesses and subcommittee members discussed how DOD might operate its tactical aviation forces in a more joint, integrated manner, and thus potentially reduce the number of purchased aircraft, without eroding combat power.4 Some in Congress have expressed doubts about the affordability of tactical aircraft modernization programs as currently projected, and some question the need for as many of these aircraft as currently planned by the services. These concerns were also reflected in the recommendations of the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review, and PBD 753, which resulted in reductions in the projected numbers of tactical aircraft to be procured. Analysis: Key Issues to Consider Affordability Given probable constraints on defense spending in future years, can we afford tactical aircraft modernization programs as currently projected? Tactical aviation accounts for a significant share of the U.S. defense budget, although estimates vary widely, depending on what is included and how costs are allocated. In 1996, some Defense Department analysts estimated that over 40% of the projected cost of developing and producing the 20 most expensive weapon systems during the FY1996FY2013 period would go to three tactical aviation programs: JSF (16.5 %), F-22 (14.5%), and F/A-18E/F (11%). These analyses did not assess the relative military value of such aircraft in comparison with other weapon systems, however, nor did they compare the cost of aircraft with that of other weapon systems on an historical basis. Since the early 1990s, Administration officials have argued that their tactical aircraft modernization plans are designed to be affordable within the smaller procurement budgets projected for future years. In efforts to reduce tactical aviation costs, the George H. Bush Administration terminated several aircraft programs in 1990-92, including continued procurement of Navy F-14D fighter/attack planes, development of a naval variant of the Air Force F-22 stealth fighter, and development of the Navy’s A-12 attack plane. In a hearing on tactical aircraft before the House Armed Services Committee on April 29, 1992, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysts testified that the procurement costs of the four tactical aircraft then in the Administration’s plan would be affordable “only under optimistic assumptions about trends in costs and available funds.” CBO concluded that these aircraft would probably be procured in smaller numbers than originally planned and without some of the technological features and performance capabilities that earlier were regarded as military requirements. In a hearing on the same subject before the House National Security Committee’s R&D and Procurement Subcommittees on June 27, 1996, CBO analysts expressed similar doubts about the JSF, F-22, and F/A-18E/F programs, concluding that DOD is understating the costs of these aircraft, which “may not be affordable and will probably need to be scaled back....” 4 “Hearing of the Airland Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee,” Federal News Service, Apr. 6, 2005. CRS-6 IB92115 03-16-06 General Accounting Office (GAO) analysts also testified that attempting to pay for DOD’s tactical aviation programs as planned “appears to be unrealistic” in light of probable levels of defense spending in the 2000s. On March 5, 1997, these programs were discussed in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and later in a joint hearing of the House National Security Committee’s R&D and procurement subcommittees, where GAO and CBO analysts and DOD officials (Air Force General Joseph Ralston, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dr. Paul Kaminsky, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology) testified. Options noted by General Ralston ranged from canceling the F- 22, F/A-18E/F, or JSF program, or buying 25-50% fewer planes than projected, to increasing funding for these three tactical aircraft programs — which as then projected accounted for about 10% of projected spending for development and procurement of all weapons through FY2003 and would rise to 16% through FY2009 and 18% through FY2015. Representative Curt Weldon stated that since procurement of tactical aircraft in the Administration’s FY1998 budget accounted for only about 6% of total procurement funding, the currently projected funding levels and production schedules for these three programs — estimated by CBO to cost over $350 billion through the 2020s — were unrealistic. Several other Members also expressed doubts about the affordability of these programs, given current budgetary concerns, uncertainties about future threats, and competing funding requirements of other programs. CBO and GAO analysts expressed considerable skepticism about the affordability and schedules of these programs as currently planned.5 These programs were also the subject of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Air-Land Subcommittee hearing on April 16, 1997, which focused mainly on differing estimates of the F-22’s production cost by Defense Department and Air Force officials. (See Foote, Sheila. Senators Raise Questions about Affordability of TACAIR. Defense Daily. April 17, 1997: 101-102.) On July 11, 1997, during Senate debate on the FY1998 defense authorizations bill (S. 936), an amendment by Senator Russell Feingold requiring DOD to recommend which of three programs (JSF, F-22, or F/A- 18E/F) should be terminated if funding were available for only two programs was defeated 79-19. (Congressional Record, July 11, 1997: S7227-S7234.) Similar concerns about the rising costs of these aircraft programs were voiced in 1999 during hearings by the House Armed Services Committee (March 3, 1999) and the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee (March 10 and 17, 1999), when projected increases in the development cost of the F-22 and the JSF were discussed at length. CBO and GAO analysts expressed many of the same concerns about these programs that they have noted in recent years. Concerns about the affordability of these programs played a major role in congressional opposition to procurement funding for the F-22 program in the FY2000 defense budget. 5 “Tacair Modernization on Hill: Questions, but No Decisions Yet,” Aerospace Daily, Mar. 12, 1997, pp. 377-378 and Tony Capaccio, “GOP Defense Staff: Tac Air Problem ‘Out Of Control,’” Defense Week, Mar. 10, 1997, pp. 1, 15. CRS-7 IB92115 03-16-06 In the spring of 2003 F-22 affordability was again at issue. During an April 11 hearing of the House Government Reform Committee’s national security subcommittee, Defense Department and Air Force officials estimated that rising costs and the program’s congressionally mandated $36.8 billion production cost cap could converge to reduce the total Air Force purchase to as few as 225 Raptors.6 In March 2005, Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Representative Curt Weldon began a hearing by observing that tactical aviation is “in the midst of a massive train wreck financially.” Representative Weldon noted that the costs of the F-22 and JSF had increased by “well over 100” and 80 percent respectively, and one impact of these increases was reduced aircraft purchases.7 Capability Required Given the demise of the Soviet Union and the apparent dominance U.S. air forces have demonstrated in recent conflicts, and the apparent growth of low-intensity conflicts, what capabilities are required in U.S. tactical aircraft? The F-22 program was started in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet Union was expected to continue producing high-performance aircraft and air-defense missiles that could pose serious threats in the 1990s and beyond. The F-22 was then justified as an advanced aircraft capable of performing combat missions in a high-threat environment. With the demise of the Soviet Union and a much changed international environment, some question the need to procure large quantities of such expensive, high-capability aircraft. Alternatives would be to produce only limited numbers of these aircraft, while upgrading and extending the service lives of existing aircraft such as Air Force F-15Es and F-16Cs, Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18C/Ds, and Navy F/A-18E/Fs. Others argue that advanced combat aircraft are not the most applicable airpower resources for counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism operations. These observers would reduce planned combat aircraft procurement programs in favor of increased investments in unmanned aerial vehicles, special operations helicopters, medical evacuation aircraft, and training and equipping forward air controllers.8 Others argue that large numbers of high-capability aircraft are still necessary because Russian aircraft and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) are available to potential adversaries of the United States and its allies, and some European and Asian companies may soon be able to market advanced aircraft and missiles to potential enemies. In this view, the demise of the Soviet Union does not mean the end of potential high-threat areas requiring advanced aircraft. Recent acquisitions of fighter aircraft and surface-to-air missiles by China, and to a lesser degree India, have fueled some observers’ concerns that these countries may effectively challenge U.S. airpower in the future. In recent conflicts in Iraq and Yugoslavia, the F-117 stealth attack plane played a crucial role in destroying targets in high-threat areas. 6 Marc Selinger, “F-22 Production Estimate Questioned by Lawmakers,” Aerospace Daily, Apr. 28, 2003. 7 “Hearing of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee,” Federal News Service, Mar. 25, 2005. 8 See CRS Report RL32737: Military Aviation: Issues and Options for Combating Terrorism and Counterinsurgency, by Christopher Bolkcom and Kenneth Katzman. CRS-8 IB92115 03-16-06 Having large numbers of such advanced aircraft, it is argued, will help ensure operational success in future conflicts with well-armed adversaries. Most of those questioning the modernization plan acknowledge that proliferation of advanced aircraft and air-defense equipment in the Third World will require the United States to field some new-generation high-capability aircraft. They argue, however, that the Gulf War showed the United States has a formidable advantage in air-to-air combat, which can be maintained by procuring a limited number of F-22s for use against those adversaries who may be able to make effective use of modern Soviet or European aircraft. They note that the stealthy F-117s used in the Gulf War constituted a tiny percentage of all tactical aircraft employed against Iraq, and only a few non-stealthy planes were shot down, even in the early days of the war. Moreover, they argue that cruise missiles and stealthy B-2 bombers and non-stealthy B-1s equipped with adequate standoff munitions could be used against heavily defended targets. In this view, F-22s would be procured in some smaller quantity than the 381 planes currently desired by the Air Force and could be operated as special “silver bullet” forces. Others take issue with the need for any F-22s, arguing that the Air Force and Navy will face generally the same adversary aircraft in the future, and these services now have roughly equal capability in air-to-air combat as well as considerable air-to-surface attack capabilities with F-15Es. Others point out that the Navy will eventually conduct its air-to-air combat mission primarily with the F/A-18E/F. If the Navy does not need a new- generation stealth fighter for the post-Cold War era, they ask, why is such an aircraft required for the Air Force? Some also argue that the improved attack capability of the F/A-18E/F will be sufficient for carrier-based attack missions against the most likely adversaries in regional conflicts. Furthermore, it can be argued that the successful development of longer-range and more accurate and lethal standoff munitions would significantly increase the combat effectiveness of current-generation tactical aircraft. The need for the V-22’s capabilities are also debated. Those in favor of the program say the V-22 is needed to replace aging military helicopters in all the services, which are costly to maintain and operate safely and effectively. This tilt-rotor aircraft will provide the operational flexibility of a helicopter without the helicopter’s inherent limitations of speed, range, and altitude. When landing on hostile shores in a third-world conflict, the V-22 would be critical for the transport of Marines from ship to shore. In sum, it is the Marine Corps’ most important program and a key pillar supporting emerging Marine Corps warfighting concepts such as Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare. Those who question the need for the V22’s capabilities say that ship-to-shore logistical operations can be performed by less expensive helicopters for the kinds of landing operations in which the Marines are likely to be involved, where the V-22’s greater speed and range would not be needed. Moreover, Marine assault missions in an opposed landing would involve ship-to-shore movement of troops and equipment, which would require coordination with aircraft having less speed and range than the V-22. Force Structure How many tactical aircraft does the United States need? The George H. Bush Administration’s proposed base force for the mid-1990s and beyond reduced force structure to 26.5 Air Force fighter and attack wings, 13 Navy carrier CRS-9 IB92115 03-16-06 air wings, and 4 Marine Corps air wings (compared to 35, 15, and 4 air wings respectively in FY1990). Budgetary considerations and radically altered international conditions led to these reductions, which some argued were appropriate for the post-Cold War era, while others viewed this force structure as excessive. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced in September 1993 that the Clinton Administration projected a base force of 20 Air Force fighter/attack wings (13 active, 7 reserve), 11 Navy carrier air wings, and 4 Marine Corps air wings. The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review recommended no major changes in this force structure, although the 20 Air Force tactical wings would comprise 12 active and 8 reserve wings. In an attempt to save money, but maintain combat capability, the Navy-Marine Corps Tactical Air Integration Plan, proposed in late 2002, reduced the number of Navy and Marine Corps combat aircraft squadrons by nine.9 Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England reportedly views this reduction as a potential model for DOD’s entire tactical aviation force. In a March 21, 2005 interview, Mr. England noted that by better integrating Navy and Marine Corps tactical aviation, the Defense Department was able to reduce aircraft purchases and save $35 billion, while maintaining the same combat capabilities. Increased efficiencies that might be realized across DOD’s tactical air enterprise might include better integration, and more common assets, he told reporters. Mr. England advocated that DOD examine its “whole [tactical aviation] enterprise” and search for efficiencies and savings. He predicted, reportedly, that “the most efficient, effective way to construct our air assets” may be one of the biggest debates in the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review.10 The question of how many wings of tactical aircraft the United States needs for the “post-9/11” era, and how this number should be determined, is part of an ongoing debate in the Defense Department and Congress over the proper overall size of U.S. military forces. Decisions on this issue can affect views on the affordability and focus of plans for modernizing tactical aircraft. A reduction in the number of air wings would lead to a corresponding reduction in the number of aircraft to be procured. However, a reduction in the number of air wings may lead to a decision to increase the proportions of F-22s and F/A-18E/Fs in the force, on grounds that reduced forces need more capable equipment. Service Roles and Missions How should views on service roles and missions be factored into decisions on tactical aircraft modernization? The high cost of tactical aircraft programs has renewed interest in the division of tactical aviation roles and missions among the services. The apparent redundancy in tactical aviation among the services — the Air Force plus air components of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army — has often been criticized as a duplication of efforts. In May 1995, the Commission on Roles and Missions advocated the continuation of air components in every service, but suggested that the overall force structure as well as the mix of capabilities and support 9 See CRS Report RS21488, Navy-Marine Corps Tactical Air Integration Plan: Background and Issues for Congress, by Christopher Bolkcom and Ronald O’Rourke. 10 Christopher J. Castelli, “DEPSECDEF Nominee Sees Potential For DoD-Wide TACAIR Integration,” Inside the Navy, Apr. 4, 2005. CRS-10 IB92115 03-16-06 infrastructure should be reviewed. GAO analysts concluded subsequently that DOD’s plans for tactical aviation have not taken adequate account of overall capabilities and requirements from a joint-service perspective. The main roles-and-missions issue affecting current modernization plans concerns the respective roles of the Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps in projecting U.S. air power overseas. Most defense analysts view this as not an either-or question but a question of the appropriate balance between these services in a shared and joint mission. Some would give the Air Force primary responsibility for power projection overseas; others argue that geo-political factors would require naval assets for sustained air operations in many situations. Canceling the AFX and relying mainly on the attack capabilities of the F/A-18E/F has been viewed by some as reducing the Navy’s role in overseas projection of air power, which to some would call into question the value of aircraft carriers. Others would argue that carrier-based aircraft are needed for missions other than deep-strike operations, such as shorter-range land attack, air superiority, airborne early warning, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and anti-submarine warfare. Recent operations, such as the 2001 war in Afghanistan, highlighted the importance of carrier-based aviation. Defense Industrial Base How should industrial-base considerations be factored into decisions on tactical aircraft modernization? The health of the U.S. defense industrial base has been a perennial issue. A report by the Defense Science Board published in the Spring of 2000 noted that the defense industry is in the midst of a painful transition that is complicated by the “new economy,” which is draining human and financial resources. Unless steps are taken now, the study concluded, the U.S. defense industry will likely be less competitive and financially viable in 5 to 10 years than it is today. A July 2000 study by Booz-Allen Hamilton reported that the U.S. defense industrial base is in a state of decline and national security will be affected if current trends go unchecked.11 A 2005 study by DOD, however, found no major problems with U.S. defense industry.12 Congressional decisions on tactical aviation programs have serious implications for the aerospace sector of the U.S. industrial base, which is a major source of technological innovations as well as export earnings. Aerospace is the nation’s leading net exporter of manufactured goods, with exports exceeding imports in 2004 by $31 billion (including $9.5 billion in military exports), according to the Aerospace Industries Association. There is general agreement that there were more aircraft manufacturers and subcontractors than recent levels of defense spending could sustain. Consequently, the aerospace industry, like other industries heavily dependent on Pentagon spending, has been undergoing a shakeout, with some companies leaving the military aircraft business and others merging with financially stronger competitors and downsizing production lines. 11 Anthony Velocci, “Industry Prognosis Flags Ominous Trends,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 17, 2000. 12 Sharon Weinberger, “Annual Report Paints Rosy Picture of Defense Industrial Base,” Defense Daily, Mar. 28, 2005. CRS-11 IB92115 03-16-06 Congressional decisions on which military aircraft programs to support may influence which aircraft manufacturers and subcontractors remain in business. While the U.S. economy as a whole regularly absorbs declines equal in magnitude to that projected for defense aerospace, in the short- and medium-term, thousands of skilled engineering and manufacturing jobs as well the health of local and regional economies are at stake. Some argue that preservation of critical components of U.S. defense industry is now as important as military requirements, which have always been matters of judgment based on threat assumptions that are subject to change. There is no apparent consensus, however, about what is most critical to future U.S. military requirements or how excess military industrial capabilities can be converted to civilian production that might enhance international competitiveness in export trade. Several questions arise out of the industrial base issue: How many aircraft manufacturers are needed to support U.S. military needs? To what extent should the survivability of these firms be taken into account in deciding which aircraft programs to pursue? Which aspects of the aerospace industry are really unique and vital to production of tactical aircraft? How can competitiveness among U.S. defense contractors be maintained with fewer firms, particularly regarding different design concepts and cost-reduction innovations in the development and production of planes? Should foreign sales of U.S. military aircraft be factored into decisions on which tactical aircraft programs to pursue? How might decisions on tactical aircraft programs affect U.S. export earnings and international competitiveness of the U.S. aerospace industry? There are no easy answers to such questions and no consensus on these industrial base issues, which confront all industrial nations in the early 2000s. Modernization vs. Transformation13 How can tactical aircraft modernization needs be balanced with transformation goals? Over the past several years, defense analysts and decision makers have increasingly discussed the need for DOD to transform itself in light of rapidly changing politico-military circumstances.14 Unlike modernization, transformation is generally viewed as discontinuous change, or a “leap ahead” in capabilities. Transformation is thought to be fueled by a combination of new technologies, innovative operational concepts, and codified by new organizational schema. Modernization and transformation objectives may not be compatible. This potential incompatibility raises several questions: What emphasis should DOD place on tactical aviation modernization vs. transformation goals? To what degree do DOD’s current tactical aviation modernization programs facilitate transformation? To what degree do they conflict with transformation? Many proponents of transformation argue that instead of pursuing the tactical aviation programs described in this report, DOD should upgrade the F-16, F-15 and F/A-18C/Ds. 13 For a more detailed discussion of transformation, see CRS Report RS20859, Air Force Transformation, by Christopher Bolkcom. 14 For instance: the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review; The National Security Strategy of the United States; the Secretary of Defense’s Annual Report to the President and Congress; the 1998 National Defense Panel; P.L. 105-261, Title IX, Subtitle A, Sec. 903. CRS-12 IB92115 03-16-06 Then, DOD would have sufficient resources to pursue more aggressive aviation technologies such as unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and next generation bombers, which, transformation advocates argue, would more likely generate a “leap ahead” in aviation capabilities. Advocates of the F-22, JSF, and Super Hornet argue that these aircraft have capabilities that could contribute to transformation. Furthermore, they argue, DOD has already skipped a generation of tactical aircraft modernization and can not wait for more aggressive technologies that may or may not emerge in the distant future. They also maintain that today’s combat aircraft are losing ground to Russian and other combat aircraft, and need to be replaced sooner rather than later. Congressional Action This section presents recent legislative activity on DOD’s four major tactical aircraft modernization programs. It includes the Administration’s annual budget request, and annual authorization and appropriations. The Bush Administration’s FY2007 defense budget included the following requests for tactical aircraft programs: F-22 — $4.8 billion; JSF — $5 billion; F/A-18E/F — $3.2 billion; EA-18G — .75 billion; V-22 — $1.7 billion. Details of the request are summarized in Table 1, below. Table 1. FY2007 Budget Request ($ millions) Program USAF Procure $ # USN Procure $ DOD Procure # $ # USAF RDT&E USN RDT&E F-22 1503.9 0 477.4 APCY 216.1 Mods JSF 869.7 5 145.3 APCY 245.0 APCY 1999.1 2030.9 5290.0 208.6 2 34.4 APCY .5 Mods 1304.7 14 67.3 APCY 85.8 Mods 26.6 268.4 0 2165.1 2362.5 30 194.1 APCY *411.5 Mods *31.1 2999.2 865.4 12 39.8 APCY 372.3 1277.5 V-22 F/A18E/F EA-18G 0 584.2 DOD Total RDT&E $ 168.8 2781.6 **2 Sources: Procurement Programs (P-1), Department of Defense Budget for FY2005, Feb. 2004. RDT&E Programs (R-1), Department of Defense Budget for FY2005, Feb. 2004. Note: 0 indicates previous funding, but none for this fiscal year. Blank cell indicates never funded. * Some of these funds would be spent on F/A-18A/C/D models as well as E/F models. ** The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is spending procurement money to add SOF peculiar upgrades to the two CV-22s procured by the Air Force. The two aircraft in this column are the same aircraft in the Air Force column. CRS-13 IB92115 03-16-06 FY2006 Congressional Action In their report H.Rept. 109-89 (H.R. 1815), House authorizers generally supported the President’s budget. House authorizers matched all funding requests for the F-22 and EA18G. They also matched all funding requests for the V-22 and the F/A-18E/F and recommended increases of $2 million and $3.2 million respectively. While House authorizers matched DOD’s request for JSF RDT&E, it recommended no funds for advanced procurement (-$152 million). The committee wrote (p.92) that “the obligation of funds to begin low-rate initial production in FY2007 is premature...” considering the recent changes to the JSF program that postpone certain development milestones. In report S.Rept. 109-69 (S. 1042) Senate authorizers also supported the President’s budget. They matched all funding requests, and added $3.2 million to the F/A-18E/F RDT&E request. In H.Rept. 109-119 (H.R. 2862) House appropriators matched requests for F-22 procurement and RDT&E funding. Appropriators followed House authorizors by matching the JSF RDT&E funding request but denying the request for advance procurement, calling it premature. Appropriators provided most of the funds requested for F/A-18E/F and EA18G, trimming $5 million from the Super Hornet’s $422.4 million request for modifications, and $9 million from the Growler’s RDT&E request. Appropriators matched the Navy’s and DoD’s V-22 funding requests, but cut a net of $8 million from Air Force procurement and added $2 million to Air Force RDT&E accounts. In S.Rept. 109-141 (H.R. 2863), Senate appropriators matched the Air Force’s request for F-22 procurement funding, but cut the R&D request by $25 million. Appropriators matched the Air Force’s request for JSF advanced procurement funds, but reduced the R&D request by $270 million ($146 million from the Air Force request and $124 million from the Navy request.) Appropriators matched the Navy’s request for EA-18G procurement and increased the R&D request by $9 million. Procurement requests for the F/A-18 were increased a total of $27.8 million and the Super Hornet’s R&D request was increased by $2 million. Senate appropriators matched all funding requests for the V-22 Osprey. In H.Rept. 109-360 (H.R. 1815) authorization conferees matched all procurement and funding requests. Conferees also increased the Navy’s F/A-18E/F procurement request by $3.2 million for the Shared Reconnaissance Pod, and increased the Air Force’s R&D request for V-22 by $2 million. In H.Rept. 109-359, (H.R. 2863) appropriations conferees matched the Navy’s procurement request for the EA-18G, but cut R&D by $9.1 million. Conferees increased F/A-18E/F procurement funds by $4 million for the Shared Reconnaissance Pod, and provided a net increase of $11 million in procurement funds for F/A-18 spare engines and modules. Appropriators cut, however, the Navy’s R&D request for F/A-18 by $1.3 million. Appropriators matched all funding requests for the V-22, and increased the Air Force’s R&D account by $1 million. Procurement funds requested for the JSF were cut by $32.3 million, and R&D was reduced by $99 million. Conferees matched the Air Force’s procurement crsphpgw request for the F-22, but cut R&D funds by $25 million. CRS-14