The US Air force 2018 budget request released Tuesday includes $25.4 billion for research, development, test and evaluation programs — an increase of $5 billion, or 26 percent, from the amount enacted for the current year, according to budget documents.
While some of the funding would go toward top acquisition programs such as the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, F-35A Lightning II and B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, some would also support advanced technology initiatives.
For example, the “Next Gen Air Dominance” program aims to secure $295 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, up from just $21 million under the current year.
2. Cyber-based capabilities. Development of cyber capabilities and Airmen who can operationally employ those capabilities is essential to air superiority in 2030 and beyond. The Air Force should develop cyber forces tailored for air component missions and priorities, including the protection of mission critical systems.
3. Increased contributions from space-based assets. The Air Force and the joint force will increasingly rely on advantages provided by on-orbit assets for air superiority. As such, ensuring survivable space assets is essential. Development of the Space Mission Force and implementation of the Space Enterprise Vision are key components of the AS 2030 family of capabilities.
5. Continue to pursue “game-changing” technologies. Directed energy, hypersonic weapons, and autonomy are potential game-changing technologies for air superiority. The Air Force roadmaps for these and similar technologies should include targeted decision points to assess the maturity and readiness to on-ramp these technologies into a variety of systems.
6. Low Cost Systems. The focus of this capability development area is to continue development of manufacturing technologies that enable the affordable and rapid fielding of larger quantities of capability. While several concepts utilizing mass show promise, all are predicated on bending the cost curve first. The Air Force should therefore focus low cost efforts on the development of key technological enablers prior to attempting to instantiate any particular capability. This includes development of low cost and additive manufacturing techniques, automated manufacturing, modular component development, streamlined certification, and autonomous operations. Follow-on prototyping and experimentation efforts will demonstrate the maturity of technology concepts and operational employment.