Ahead of the February 9 presentation of the Pentagon’s $583 billion budget for 2017, Secretary of Defence Ash Carter highlighted a few new weapons the US wants to add to its arsenal.
In total, Carter said that the Pentagon would request $71.4 billion for 2017 that will be used for research and development spending.
That spending will focus on a few key areas, Patrick Tucker of Defence One writes.
Firstly, Carter unveiled that the Pentagon will continue to sink resources into the development of “swarming, autonomous vehicles.”
These vehicles will be able to perform highly calculated and synchronised movements by land, air, and sea. Ideally, such swarms would be highly effective for collecting data and coordinating defence movements.
“For the air, they have developed micro-drones that are really fast, and really resilient — they can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9 … And for the water, they have developed self-driving boats, which can network together to do all sorts of missions, from fleet defence to close-in surveillance — including around an island, real or artificial, without putting our sailors at risk,” Carter said.
Secondly, Carter would like to see the Navy’s railgun system continue to receive funding.
The railgun uses electromagnetic forces to power projectiles, which can manage to reach ranges of up to 100 nautical miles. That range is about the same for a cruise missile; however, a cruise missile can cost the Navy around $1 million while a railgun projectile can be as cheap as $25,000.
Depending upon the success of the railgun, Carter would like to miniaturize and expand the program, placing “five-inch [railguns] at the front of every Navy destroyer, and also the hundreds of Army Paladin self-propelled howitzers.”
Carter is also envisioning the creation of an “arsenal plane.” The arsenal plane concept, according to Military.com, “would take an existing ‘large platform’ aircraft, such as a B-52, stock it with a variety of munitions, and have it led into battle by an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to provide targeting.”
Carter notes that such arsenal planes will essentially function as “very large airborne magazine, networked to 5th-generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes — essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities.”
This combination of legacy and more cutting edge elements may also become a recurring theme at the Pentagon.
Included in the new budget for 2017 is the ageing but still highly effective A-10 “Warthog.” The Warthog, which the Air Force has been attempting to retire, will find continued used under Carter’s proposed 5-year military budget until 2022.
“The budget defers the A-10’s final retirement until 2022, replacing it with F-35s on a squadron-by-squadron basis so we’ll always have enough aircraft for today’s conflicts,” Carter said.
The decision to postpone the A-10’s retirement was due to the aircraft’s “devastating” role in attacks against ISIS, Carter noted.
Finally, Carter also noted that the Pentagon will continue to dedicate significant resources to the development of cyber abilities.
In 2017, Carter has earmarked $7 billion for cyber, with $35 billion set aside for the next five years.
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