Here are some of the biggest winners and losers in his proposed budget:
Next Generation fighters and bombers
Winner: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
The Air Force will buy 513 of these aircraft over the next five years and ultimately 2,443 over the fighter’s lifespan. The F-35 represents a cheaper, more flexible alternative to the F-22 Raptor.
Loser: F-22 Raptor
The F-22‘s production will end at 187 aircraft, including four produced in fiscal year 2010. While the jet represents technical leaps in stealth and air superiority, Gates told reporters, “The military advice that I got was that there is no military requirement for numbers of F-22s beyond the 187.”
“First of all, we have fulfilled the program,” Gates added. “I mean, it’s not like we’re killing the F-22. We will have 187 of them, so we are completing the F-22 program.”
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia defended the F-22, which is assembled in Marietta from parts and software made by workers in more than 40 states.
“The F-22 has the ability to fly at stealth, at high altitudes, to take out radar and then to launch missiles to attack the targets the military wants to target,” Isakson said on NPR. “You cannot replace that – we’ve got to have the F-22 in the 21st century.”
Gates suggested that a military shift to using the F-35 would offset most potential job losses, but Isakson said losing any job in this economy doesn’t make sense.
Loser: The Next Big Bomber
There won’t be a new strategic bomber “until we have a better understanding of the need, the requirement and the technology,” Gates said. The Air Force currently relies on the B-2 Spirit (often called the stealth bomber), the B-1 and an aging fleet of B-52s.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
The Pentagon’s overall budget for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance will grow by $2 billion, which will fund increased Special Forces and drone aircraft capability.
Helicopters and Transport
Winner: Helicopters for Afghanistan
Gates called for adding $500 million to the Pentagon’s helicopter budget to support the war in Afghanistan. “Today the primary limitation on helicopter capacity is not airframes but shortages of maintenance crews and pilots, so our focus will be on recruiting and training more Army helicopter crews,” he said.
Loser: Presidential Helicopters
President Barack Obama will not get to ride in a new fleet of helicopters this year. The new VF-71 program is six years behind schedule and, at $13 billion, costs twice as much as originally projected. Gates said he’d kill the project and restart the replacement effort in fiscal year 2011.
President Obama had called this program “an example of the procurement process gone amok.”
Loser: The Air Force Combat Search and Rescue X Helicopter
The program will be terminated. Gates questioned “whether this important mission can only be accomplished by yet another single-service solution with a single-purpose aircraft.”
Loser: C-17 Transport Planes
The Air Force will cease production of the C-17 transport plane in fiscal year 2010.
Winner: Theater Missile Defense Systems
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Standard Missile 3 programs will receive an additional $700 million in next year’s budget. The Navy will receive another $200 million to convert six more Aegis ships to provide ballistic missile defense.
Loser: Anti-ballistic Missile Systems
The Missile Defense Agency loses $1.4 billion in funding. The proposed budget terminates the agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle program and cancels the second airborne laser prototype.
Sources: Department of Defense, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, National Public Radio, wire reports.