Military Embedded Systems

Shrinking DoD budget still has funding for aircraft upgrades


June 13, 2013

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

The President's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for the Department of Defense is down as expected in procurement and Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding. However, funding still exists for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), electronic warfare, and avionics retrofits and modernizations.

Slow, stagnant, disappointing, worrisome – all of these adjectives could describe the Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD). Funding reductions coupled with sequestration woes have put a gloom over the industry. Uncertainty also remains as to when sequestration will end, putting at risk key DoD infrastructures. However, when new programs are canceled or put on hold, it does create opportunities in platform upgrades and modernizations, necessary to keep current aircraft and ground vehicles alive for a few more years.

The FY 2014 for the Department of Defense is $526.6 billion, down about $0.9 billion from the FY 2013 budget request of $527.5 billion. The FY 2014 acquisition funding request for the Department of Defense (DoD) is $167.6 billion, of which $99.3 billion is for procurement-funded and $67.6 billion is for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E)-funded programs. Of this amount, $69.4 billion is set for Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAP). MDAP aircraft funding decreased from $47.6 billion in the FY 2013 to $45.5 billion in FY 2014.

Modernization programs being funded in the FY 2014 budget request include the F-22 Raptor, the F-15 Eagle, the H-1 Helicopter, and the Abrams tank. These upgrades have funding for enhancements to radar, signals intelligence, avionics, and vetronics systems, all of which leverage embedded computing systems. Below are some MDAP aircraft and ground vehicle highlights from this year’s budget request.

Fixed wing aircraft

Funding and procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) continues in FY 2014 with a total of 29 aircraft: four Carrier Variants for the Navy, six Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) variants for the Marine Corps, and 19 Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variants for the Air Force. Total Navy funding for the JSF increased in FY 2014 to $2.778 billion from $2.583 billion in FY 2013. Air Force funding also is slightly up at $3.582 billion for FY 2014 over $3.565 billion in FY 2013.

For FY 2014 the F-22 modernization will add an initial ground attack kill chain capability through emitter-based geolocation of threat systems, ground-looking synthetic aperture radar modes, electronic attack capability, and the initial integration of the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB-1). Total procurement for the F-22 is $285.8 million for FY 2014, essentially flat compared to FY 2013 funding.

Funding of 21 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft is provided for in the FY 2014 request at $2 billion – about twice the 2013 request of $1.027 billion. Five E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (AHE) airborne early warning aircraft are to be procured in FY 2014 at $1.247 billion, an increase over FY 2013 funding of $984.7 million.

The F-15E Radar Modernization Program (RMP) and F-15C/D radar upgrade programs will continue in FY 2014. RDT&E funding for the F-15E is $244.3 million in FY 2014, an increase of $49.6 million over FY 2013, with procurement for FY 2014 at $354.6 million – more than double the FY 2013 funding of $148.6 million.


The H-1 Helicopter Upgrade program consists of new build aircraft and remanufacturing efforts that convert AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters to the AH-1Z and UH-1Y versions respectively. For FY 2014 the DoD is looking to produce 25 aircraft – 15 UH-1Y new build aircraft and 10 new build AH-1Z aircraft. Development funds will provide for follow-on improvements to sensors and weapons integration, avionics, and air vehicle components. The total procurement request for FY 2014 is $821 million.

The Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) Program, formerly referred to as the HH-60 Recapitalization, will replace the Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk. Development funding for FY 2014 supports the second lot of two aircraft for Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) activities. RDT&E funding for this program in FY 2014 increases to $395.6 million from $123.2 million in FY 2013.

DoD also is looking to procure 65 UH-60L Black Hawks for $1.163 billion in FY 2014 as part of a continuation of a five-year Multiyear Procurement (MYP) contract for FYs 2012-2016. FY 2014 funding also supports continued development and testing of digital upgrades to the UH-60L. In FY 2013, 59 Black Hawks were acquired.

The remanufacture of 42 AH-64D aircraft to the AH-64E Apache configuration is supported in FY 2014 at $759.4 billion – an increase over FY 2013 funding of $648.8 million.

Eighteen MV-22 Osprey are provided in FY 2014 for the Navy/Marine Corps and 3 CV-22 aircraft for Air Force-U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The request is based on the second year of a follow-on five-year multiyear procurement contract for FYs 2013 to 2017.

Unmanned aircraft

FY 2014 funds upgrades to system hardware and performance-based logistics support for the RQ-7 Shadow; procures upgrades and provides training and contractor logistics support for the RQ-11 Raven; and procures 25 RQ-21 Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) air vehicles. Total FY 2014 procurement for all three is $228.4 million, up from $211.4 million in FY 2013.

The Global Hawk is set for continued funding for its Block 40, ground station, and Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion programs. Procurement funding for the high-altitude drone decreases in FY 2014 to $773 million from $1.103 billion in FY 2013.

The development, transformation, and fielding of Reaper aircraft and ground stations is continued in FY 2014 to support the requirement to field and sustain 65 Combat Air Patrols (CAP)/orbits. The FY 2014 request supports the procurement of 12 aircraft and 12 fixed ground control stations at $506.7 billion, less than half of what was spent in FY 2013 at $1.040 billion for 24 aircraft.

For the Predator, Air Force and SOCOM modifications will continue. For Gray Eagle, the Army continues development and integration of the Universal Ground Control Station, a ground based sense-and-avoid system, and a SIGINT capability. The DoD is looking to procure 15 Gray Eagle aircraft and three modular platoon sets of equipment in FY 2014. Total Predator/Gray Eagle funding for FY 2014 is $646.5 billion, down from $784.5 billion in FY 2013.

Ground programs

In an era where the U.S. is scaling back its military footprint abroad, ground vehicle programs will typically see funding cuts. The FY 2014 request calls for a decrease in procurement of the Heavy and Medium Tactical Vehicles – down to $36 million and $226 million respectively in FY 2014 from $58.1 and $377.4 million in FY 2013.

The M1A2 Abrams tank program will have support for modifications and upgrades in FY 2014 funding. It also procures modifications to fielded M1A2 Abrams tanks, such as the Data Distribution Unit the Commander’s Remote Operating Weapon Station (CROWS). FY 2014 funding for this upgrade is $279 million, down from $300.8 million in FY 2013.

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), a joint program currently in development for the Army and Marine Corps to replace the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), has its FY 2014 funding provided at $134.6 million, an increase over $116.8 in FY 2013.

The Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), which is slated to replace Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, will see funding decrease from $639.9 million in 2013 to $592.2 million in FY 2014. The GCV will transition to the EMD phase in late FY 2014.