The Senate passed its version of the annual defense authorization bill June 18, sending their draft to a conference committee with House leaders.

Here’s what the bill means for future battlefield technologies:

Cuts to underwater drones

Though unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) are considered by some members of Congress and industry to be the answer for deterring adversaries in the 21st century, the Senate does not seem to agree. The research, development, test and evaluation budget for large UUVs was cut by $21.2 million, from the requested $92.6 million down to $71.4 million. This cut could affect research funding for the Navy’s Extra Large UUV and Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Innovative Naval Prototype programs.

Boost to next-generation missile defense

The Air Force’s next generation missile satellite warning system, the Evolved Space Based Infrared System program, or SBIRS, received a $100 million hike in the Senate’s NDAA draft. That boost increases the programs RDT&E funding from $643 million to $743 million. The additional funding was justified to accelerate development of the next-gen system’s sensor.

Air Force command and control bump

One of the Air Force’s advanced UAVs received a $120 million plus-up, from $221 million to $344 million, to speed up development of the new Advanced Battlefield Management System. This so-called system-of-systems technology looks to link together existing platforms to track ground targets and do command and control.

Found under the MQ-9 Reaper procurement budget line, the Air Force is looking to develop a concept that “disaggregates [C2] capability using multiple sensor platforms, including teamed manned and unmanned systems, a robust battlespace information architecture, and dispersed command and control,” according to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan.

By equipping MQ-9’s with the system, the Air Force will continue to be able to continue missions historically carried out by JSTARS.

Blackjack gets a boost

DARPA’s Blackjack project aims to develop a low Earth orbit satellite constellation of smaller, cheaper military-grade satellites, received a $110 million hike. The program is attempting to leverage commercial industry to develop low-cost space payloads and satellite buses with low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) with similar capabilities as today’s military communications that operate in higher orbits.

JSTARS recap

In one of the most contentious items in the NDAA, the Senate authorized $50 million to JSTARS ground moving target indicator research and development fund, even though the Air Force did not request any new funding for the GMTI radar development.

Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.

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