NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. --- The program executive officer (PEO) overseeing more than half of Naval Aviation's aircraft inventory is putting recent budget increases to good use, dramatically increasing the number of aircraft it will buy in fiscal 2018 and beyond.
During the 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition April 10, Rear Adm. G. Dean Peters, PEO for air anti-submarine warfare, assault and special mission programs (PEO(A)), explained the additional aircraft buys.
PEO(A) had been planning to procure 41 aircraft in fiscal 2018 and 167 between fiscal 2019 and 2023, said Peters. Following recent increases in federal defense spending, those figures have increased to 75 and 207, respectively.
"That's a fairly significant increase," Peters said. "During my time as a program manager since 2007, working programs or in the PEO, this is really the first time that we've been able to talk about increases in our programs as far as what we're procuring."
"In the past, we've just been kind of surviving. Really in '18 and '19, these budget years, we've seen a shift. There's been an inflection of increased support, and we absolutely have projects that need that funding, whether it's our procurement programs or our upgrade programs," he added. "It's not like we all of a sudden got a lot of money and are looking around for where to spend it. We've always had these requirements, and now we've actually got the money to execute, and to do so more efficiently. When you can buy six CH-53K [heavy -lift helicopters] instead of four, that's much more efficient."
Peters commented that PEO(A)-which covers 55 percent of Naval Aviation's aircraft inventory-may need to come up with a new nickname for the procurement charts, that in years past would have the number of aircraft each program needed to buy in outlying fiscal years slashed out and replaced by the smaller number of aircraft that actually received approved funding.
"We used to call that a 'slash' plan, because you had all the numbers and then you marked it to show what they were decreasing to," he said. "So we're going to have to come up with another name for the 'slash' plan."
As for his programs, Peters had several new developments to share. He said the V-22 Osprey program office is close to fielding a roll-on, roll-off kit that will allow the MV-22B to provide aerial refueling to U.S. Marine aircraft.
Meanwhile, the P-8A Poseidon is testing high-altitude torpedoes that take the anti-submarine warfare "problem set from 1,000 feet and below to approximately 12,000 feet," Peters said. "When you're up that high, it gives you a lot of advantages, but still being able to place a torpedo in the right spot was a technical challenge. We're very close to proving out that capability."
In addition, Peters said the C-130 Hercules recently tested its first shot of an AGM-114 Hellfire missile against a moving target using the modular Harvest HAWK weapons system. The system had already been tested with the AGM-176 Griffin missile, he added.
The Navy's C-130Ts are also getting new cockpits, which are currently in testing, and eight-bladed, NP2000 propellers, the same ones on the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound, and which will replace the C-130T's previous four-bladed propellers.
In replacing the propellers, the C-130 program office is leveraging work done by the U.S. Air Force, which has already put NP2000 propellers on its National Guard aircraft, Peters said.
The Navy was originally planning to put the propeller upgrade in its fiscal 2019 budget, but $121 million earmarked for the program in the current budget "allowed us to accelerate it by a year, which is huge," Peters said. "And to be able to take advantage of work that's already been done with the Air Force and National Guard, there was really no reason to wait."