SASC 2022 NDAA Markups: More Money For USAF F-35 Sustainment

The Senate Armed Services Committee announced on 22 July that it had voted 22-3 to advance its markups of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, raising the topline of the budget by $25 billion.

In an executive summary of the markups, the SASC stated that the Air Force will be receiving an additional $360 million in funding for F-35 sustainment as requested in its unfunded priorities list, with $175 million for power modules and $185 million for weapons systems. The markups would also direct the Department of Defense to transition F-35 program sustainment from the F-35 Joint Program Office to the Air Force and Navy.

The Air Force is also receiving additional funding for 1 F-35A in addition to the 48 requested, despite the Air Force not placing additional F-35As on its unfunded priorities list. The Air Force has previously stated that it would not place additional F-35s on the list prior to Tech Refresh 3 rolling out, amidst a continued fight over high F-35 sustainment costs on Capitol Hill. In comparison, the Air Force had on its unfunded priorities list a request for $1.376 billion for 12 new F-15EX fighters, but the SASC only grants it an additional $575 million for five.

Lt. Col. Richard Turner, Commander, 40th Flight Test Squadron, and Lt. Col. Jacob Lindaman, Commander, 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron, deliver the first F-15EX to its new home station, Eglin AFB, Florida, 11 March, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John McRell)

The SASC has also authorized an additional $30 million for Air Force advanced engine development, in addition to an additional $20 million for continuous capability development and delivery for the F-35. Other markups include “encouragement” for the Air Force to accelerate development of airborne augmented reality technology that will “contribute to improved training outcomes and reduce net training costs”. The Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy are being directed to conduct a study on the efficiency of current pilot training initiatives and pilot programs with respect to the quality of graduates, with a report to be provided no later than June 1, 2022.

 Additionally, the Secretary of the Air Force is directed to consult with the Secretary of the Navy to provide a report on the feasibility of Agile Combat Employment exercises in the Pacific, Europe and within the Continental United States and Alaska by January 31, 2022.