The House Armed Services Committee’s budget mark-up put back the aircraft carrier the Administration wants to delete, but funding an air wing for it remains an open question, said Rep. Randy Forbes, chair of the seapower and projection forces panel. Forbes told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday that it was “disingenuous” of the Administration to offer up a carrier as a budget cut. “Somebody at [the Office of Management and Budget] or somewhere said we want it to look like the Navy’s taking pain and it was put in there as the big symbol,” he said, adding it was “not a good symbol” because allies will see it as the US “dismantling the Navy.” Asked if there will also be funding for an air wing to go on the carrier, Forbes said, “that’s a good question.” He thinks the defense debate needs to examine not just the number of carriers but the “air wing mix,” and he suggested the Pentagon take a “re-look” at requirements for the Navy UCLASS remotely piloted stealth jet. Forbes thinks the Navy should reconsider whether it wants a mostly reconnaissance jet with some strike capability, or vice-versa. To combat adversary anti-access, area-denial capabilities, Forbes said the Navy needs “new munitions,” which he declined to discuss further due to secrecy. (Seapower and projection forces mark-up.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.