The US military’s focus away from the Middle East towards so-called “great power competition” with China and Russia is reflected in the Pentagon’s budget request for 2022. For the Air Force, the service is seeking significantly fewer weapons that it has used against groups like ISIS as it hopes to invest in more sophisticated long-range missiles that can be used in the Pacific to fight China.
To fund more sophisticated long-range missiles, the Air Force will significantly reduce the purchase of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDMs, a small diameter bomb that the US has used across the Middle East. The Air Force will also reduce the purchase of Hellfire missiles, which are typically used for drone strikes.
According to documents reviewed by Military.com, the Air Force will ask Congress for 1,900 JDAM munitions, compared to 16,800 last year. The Air Force will ask for 1,176 Hellfire missiles, down from 4,517. The military service will also reduce to purchase of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs to 998, down from 2,462.
To face China in the Pacific, the Air Force requested $161 million to buy 12 new hypersonic missiles, known as Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW. The ARRW missiles are currently in the research and development phase and have never been used on the battlefield.
The Air Force also wants to buy more Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, or JASSM-ER, stealth cruise missile, an advanced weapon with a range of about 600 miles. The service is requesting 525 JASSM-ER missiles, up from 400 last year.
In a statement on the Pentagon’s $715 billion budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made it clear China is the priority. The budget provides us the mix of capabilities we need most and stays true to our focus on the pacing challenge from the People’s Republic of China,” he said.