By Paul McLeary
WASHINGTON — More pieces of next Monday’s fiscal 2016 defense budget request are beginning to fall into place.
The Pentagon’s future years funding projection to be released with each annual budget request will include more money than planned, the Pentagon’s second in command said on Wednesday.
The fiscal 2016 future years defense program (FYDP) slated to be released on Feb. 2 “reverses the decline in defense spending over the past five years and works to address the under-investment in new weapons by making targeted investments in those areas we deem to be the highest priority,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told a Senate panel that there is money in the next budget for the Air Force to begin work on its 6th generation fighter
“It will be a program that will be initially led by DARPA,” Kendall said, “but it will involve the Navy and the Air Force as well. And the intent is to develop prototypes for the next generation of air dominance platforms, X-Plane programs, if you will.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a series of studies on 6th generation fighter technologies for the past several years, and Air Force officials have said they expect to begin flying the next-generation jets by as early as the 2030s. Industry teams are also known to have started internal research and development projects on potential 6th generation technologies.
The DARPA 6th generation fighter program has been dubbed the Air Dominance Initiative.
In keeping with the push by Kendall and Work to increase competition for programs and get the department the best deal — and the best technology possible — he added that in order to be competitive, “the Navy and the Air Force will each have variants focused on their mission requirements. There’ll be a technology period leading up to development of the prototypes.”
Kendall confirmed that “this will be in our budget” in 2016.
The initiative will be a key component of the Better Buying Power 3.0 plan that Kendall has championed, which seeks to find efficiencies in the technology development phase of new programs, while tapping allies to share some of the cost of prototyping and development.
The work will eventually “lead to the systems that will ultimately come after the F-35,” he said, adding that “part of the program is an airframe-oriented program with those X- plane prototypes.” Another is a jet engine development program “for the next generation, also competitive prototypes for the next generation propulsion.”
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security event, Work added that in the upcoming budgets, his team is programming funding lines to invest “in promising new technologies and capabilities, including unmanned undersea vehicles; sea mining; high speed strike weapons; an advanced new jet engine; rail gun technology; and high energy lasers.”