WASHINGTON --- The U.S. House Armed Services committee has again taken an interest in some of the Air Force's aircraft upgrade programs, providing additional funding for C-130 upgrades and keeping a watchful eye on the F-16 fleet.
The committee's markup of the FY15 defense authorization bill adds $73.8 million for C-130H propulsion system upgrades and C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) kits. The committee is disappointed that the Air Force has no plans to continue the C-130 AMP or that there are no plans to upgrade the fleet's propulsion system.
The Air Force has tried to kill the AMP a number of times in favor of more targeted upgrades. Lawmakers blocked termination of the AMP in last year's budget as well. The committee is concerned that if more robust upgrades are not undertaken now, the C-130 will become too expensive to maintain in the outyears, particularly if the fleet is kept in service through 2040 as currently planned.
The bill therefore includes a provision that prevents the Air Force from cancelling the C-130 AMP, and directs the service to immediately obligate authorized appropriations provided in FY13 and FY14 for AMP upgrades.
The committee also said it was concerned about the Air Force's F-16 upgrade plans, as the service terminated the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) program in the FY15 budget. Under CAPES, the Air Force would have upgraded F-16 Block 40, 42, 50, and 52 aircraft with new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, electronic warfare systems, integrated broadcast systems, and center display units.
The committee recognized the Air Force's need to make difficult choices in its budget, though lawmakers have asked for a detailed assessment of how the CAPES termination will impact the fleet's capabilities over the coming years.
The Air Force is reviewing future F-16 upgrade options for FY16, and the committee urges the Air Force to consider the computer modular receiver exciter (C-MoRE) and scalable agile beam radar (SABR) upgrades. C-MoRE is an upgrade of the F-16 Block 30 APG-68(V1) mechanically scanned array radar. The SABR would replace the mechanically scanned array with an AESA radar.