The United States has the largest defense expenditures among all nations globally. In the year 2022 alone, the nation’s expenditure amounted to a staggering $877 billion—more than the next ten countries combined at $849 billion. As we delve into the year 2023, defense allocation accounts for 16.4% of the federal government’s budget, translating to a substantial $2.01 trillion in budgetary resources.
Recent largest government defense contracts awarded by the U.S. federal government
Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program
- Primary contractor: Lockheed Martin
- Contracting agency: Department of Defense
- Amount: $1.7 trillion
The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, initially finalized in 1996, develops a range of fighter, strike, and ground attack aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. It was created to strengthen the aerospace capabilities of the United States and its allies, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The Department of Defense has awarded the JSF Program’s prime contractor position to Lockheed Martin for the production of the aircraft. Additionally, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Pratt and Whitney, and Rolls-Royce, among others, serve subcontractors for various maintenance, modification, and other related services.
JSF Program aims to revolutionize the aerospace capabilities of the U.S. Air Force and its allies, equipping the force with best-in-class aircraft and systems. This goal comes at a staggering price tag, which still balloons amid production costs, limited raw materials supplies, and stricter global supply chain policies.
Current developments in the JSF Program
The JSF Program has 70-90% commonality across its three variants, namely:
- F-35A, also known as conventional take-off and landing aircraft (CTOL)
- F-35B, also known as short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft
- F-35C, also known as carrier variant (CV).
Several purchase programs for the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, as well as the United Kingdom Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, are also planned under the JSF Program, including:
- 1,763 F-35A air-to-ground strike aircraft
- 353 F-35B STOVL jets and 67 F-35C CV aircraft
- 260 F-35C jets
- 138 F-35B jets
As of October 2020, more than 570 have been delivered to the respective agencies that purchased the aircraft and jets.
B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber Program
- Primary contractors: Northrop Grumman
- Contracting agency: Department of Air Force
- Amount: $203 billion
The United States Air Force is getting a new aircraft in its fleet upon the finalization of the Long-Range Strike Bomber Program (LRS-B) under the B-21 “Raider” designation to honor Doolittle Raiders during World War II. The program is named among the top three procurement priorities of the defense agency in the next few years.
In 2015, the LRS-B Program was finally revealed to the public after being top secret since the initiative began as early as 2004. Alongside its unveiling, Northrop Grumman was announced as the primary contractor for the program, thanks to its experience as the pioneering company in aeronautics, space, and defense.
The federal government has long-time plans for the B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber Program. While the initial agreement is worth only $80 billion, multiple iterations and contract modifications can significantly increase the total amount of the program.
Current development in the LRS-B Program
LRS-B Program debuts its first B-21 Raider in late 2022, seven years after the work started in Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California. B-21 Raider is a penetrating strike stealth bomber capable of the following abilities:
- Conventional and nuclear munitions
- Electronic attack and communication
- Manned or unmanned operations
- Stand-off and direct-attack munitions
- Open systems architecture
B-21 Raider is designed to be the prototype of future Air Force bomber aircraft, consisting of several B-21s and B-52s. The aircraft is one of the over 100 stealth bombers that the Air Force aims to purchase by 2030, with an initial budget of $80 billion. In the long run, the agency plans to push for further modernization of the Air Force fleet under the potential budget of $203 billion.
Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program
- Primary contractor: General Dynamics Electric Boat
- Contracting agency: Department of the Navy
- Amount: $132 billion
The Department of the Navy has placed the Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program at the top of its priority list since its finalization in early 2023. The $132 billion contract is awarded to General Dynamics Electric Boat as the prime contractor responsible for purchasing and developing 12 Columbia class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program is initiated to replace the aging Ohio-class submarines with the largest and most complex submarine in history. To complete the program within schedule and within budget, the prime contractor collaborates with other leading shipbuilding companies, such as HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding.
Current development in the Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program
USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826), the lead submarine or the first of 12 boats under the Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program, is set for initial delivery by April 2027 for testing and modifications. After the initial delivery, one submarine is scheduled for delivery until all Ohio-class submarines are decommissioned.
Currently, SSBN-826 and USS Wisconsin are under construction with the following dimensions: 560 feet (170.7 m) in length and 43 feet (13.1 m) in diameter. The submarines are equipped with industry-leading capabilities, such as:
- 16 missile tubes carrying one Trident II D5LE missile
- Nuclear fuel core to power the submarine
- X-shaped stern control surfaces
- Electric drive
- Pump-jet propulsor
- Large Aperture Bow sonar system
The initial deployment of the lead submarine is planned for 2031; however, the final schedule may be influenced by risk analysis, evaluation, and program management considerations by the United States Navy.
Logistics Civil Augmentation Program
- Primary contractors: KBR, Vectrus Systems, PAE-Parsons, and Fluor
- Contracting agency: Department of the Army
- Amount: $82 billion
Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) is one of the longest-running contracts of the United States Army, with the first iteration awarded to then Brown and Root Services, now KBR, in August 1992. The program’s initial goal was to support and augment the Army Force structures for contingencies in civilian-related projects.
For its current iteration, LOGCAP V aligns its capabilities with the military operational tempo by providing each Army Service Component Command Commander with a dedicated regional sustainment. This enables the augmentation of theater sustainment, engineering, and base support forces for global contingency and non-contingency missions across military operations.
Current development in LOGCAP V Program
Upon the finalization of the contractors in April 2019, LOGCAP V was allocated the maximum value of $82 billion to provide a variety of services to different U.S. Army commands, including EUCOM, SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM, PACOM, CENTCOM, and NORTHCOM.
Under the 13 task orders of the LOGCAP V Program, the most notable responsibilities include the following:
- Project management offices for global military installations
- Various services in Kuwait and Afghanistan
- Relief efforts and aid for earthquake victims in Haiti
- Logistics, transportation, and postal services in Iraq
C-17 Globemaster Fleet Sustainment Program
- Primary contractors: Boeing
- Contracting agency: Department of Air Force
- Amount: $23.8 billion
The United States Air Force awarded the third iteration of the C-17 Globemaster Fleet Sustainment Program to Boeing to provide a range of support services for the aircraft’s mission-ready services. The cumulative value of the program has risen to $23.8 billion upon the finalization of the program, worth $3.5 billion in 2021.
C-17 Globemaster III Fleet Sustainment Program’s primary function is to produce military aircraft that can fire ammunition at an international range and land even on small airfields. Currently, the United States Air Force owns over 218 C-17s in its arsenal, with the first aircraft delivered to the service in January 1995.
Current development in C-17 Globemaster Fleet Sustainment Program
While the production of the C-17 Globemaster Fleet Sustainment Program was completed in November 2015, the Air Force continues to secure contracts with Boeing and other aerospace contractors for various maintenance, support, and other related management services of the military airlift aircraft.
Retrofitting the C-17 with the latest technologies, such as sensors, advanced displays, and backup systems, is one of the main functions of the recent contracts awarded to Boeing. The modifications aim to strengthen its current array of capabilities, including:
- High-wing four-engine transport vehicle that can carry up to 169,000lb (76,657kg)
- Fully integrated electronic cockpit with an advanced cargo system
- Spacious cockpit capable that can sit up to three crew (pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster)
- LAPES (Low-altitude parachute extraction system)
- Transport up to 36 litter and 54 ambulatory patients and attendants
- Ability to take off from a 7,600ft airfield, fly 2,400nm and refuel while in flight
As of January 2020, the Air Force’s C-17 fleet has completed over four million flight hours across its various operations in the United, the UAE, the UK, Kuwait, Qatar, Australia, Canada, and India.