In 2022, the Biden-Harris administration announced an estimated $857 billion national security budget for the United States. A total of $34 billion has been set aside from this massive budget for defense technology innovation.1 This figure is expected to increase to $40 billion in fiscal year 2023. In addition to this, $92 billion has been allocated for research and development (R&D) in 2022. These funds will facilitate the United States (U.S.)’ aerospace and defense industry to leverage the power of autonomy and connectivity. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enhance surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Likewise, robots can be employed to reduce the workload of soldiers and conduct operations in hazardous environments.
The White House in a budget summary document said, “The budget maintains America’s advantage by improving the resilience of U.S. space architectures to bolster deterrence and increase survivability during hostilities.”
Progress in advanced defense equipment has made hypersonic missiles, directed-energy weapons, space militarization and more a reality today. Further technological advances are predicted to see the deployment of advanced hypersonic missiles into the U.S. military arsenal, with the first hypersonic missiles anticipated to be ready for combat by 20272.These missiles will be able to fly at low altitudes and change direction in the air, making it very difficult to track them with existing missile defense systems.
There are multiple innovative use cases of technology in the U.S. aerospace and defense industry, let’s look at some of them:
The U.S. Space Force is a special unit that has grown out as an extended wing of the U.S. Air Force. Its mission is to safeguard the security interests of the U.S and its allies in space as well as to develop space capabilities. Not only does the Space Force prevent enemies from obtaining military advantages from orbit, but it also offers tactical support to ground combat forces through surveillance, communications, and geo-positioning data. Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, operated by the Space Force, are a part of the United States’ early warning systems. These satellites are deployed in a 22,3003 mile geosynchronous orbit around the earth and help protect the U.S. by detecting the launch of missiles as well as nuclear detonations.
In 2022, the U.S. government granted a budget of $18 billion to the Space Force and a funding of $1.5 billion to the Space Development Agency (a part of space force tasked with deploying disruptive space technology). This cumulative amount is estimated to increase by $5 billion and reach $24.5 billion by 2023.4
Figure: Space Force & Space Development Agency Budget Breakdown for FY 2023 (in USD)
The capabilities of the Space Force are also being bolstered by the monthly launches of small satellites and internet satellite service. By September 2024, the Space Development Agency plans to lay the foundation for the Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL), a network of 1265 optically interconnected space vehicles (SV). This low-latency data transport layer will facilitate regionally encrypted connectivity and access to global communications.
As sustainability gains the centre stage, the concept of advanced air mobility (AAM) is also rapidly gaining popularity in the U.S. aerospace and defense industry.
Advanced air mobility (AAM) is an innovative concept of aerial transportation systems that integrates transformational, cutting-edge technology into aircraft systems. The goal of the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) mission is to assist in developing a safe air transportation system that moves people and cargo between local, regional, intraregional, and urban locations that were previously unserved by aviation.
There are different types of aircraft under the AAM program such as Electric Vertical Take-Off & Landing (eVTOL), Electric Conventional Take-Off & Landing (eCTOL) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Each of these will add new capabilities to existing industry applications and bring about a significant change in mobility. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will play an important role in enhancing national security as they can be used for defense purposes without worrying about casualties.
By 2035, the AAM market in the U.S. is anticipated to nearly reach $115 billion annually.6 Under the AAM National Campaign, organizations like NASA have already begun the testing of all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft. Even though the market is still in its nascent stages, the scope of companies to carry out successful commercial operations is strong as AAM is most likely to usher in a new era of innovation in the U.S. A&D industry.
The increase in funding towards technology and innovation is helping the United States build a more resilient, mobile, and powerful defense system. The aforementioned innovations are only the tip of the iceberg. As the pace of adoption of technology accelerates, we will see the emergence of new innovative use cases of technology. Such innovations will help the U.S. maintain its competitive edge and strengthen its position as the global aerospace and defense leader.
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1.McKinsey 2. Popular Mechanic 3. Space Force 4. Space News 5. Defense.gov 6. Deloitte