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U.S. to Buy 4 More F-22s


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The upcoming Pentagon budget request will include funding for four additional F-22 Raptors in spite of the continuing stance by Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, that the current buy of 183 is adequate.

In a Jan. 14 letter to Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., England said the Defense Department intends to keep the Lockheed Martin production line running via a 2009 supplemental funding request for more planes to replace war-related losses.

Gingrey said that England’s letter held “very little encouraging news,” and that simply prolonging the debate on when to close the line is not the answer.

“In 2009, the multiyear procurement ends,” Gingrey said. “We have to be ready with long-lead advanced procurement so we can purchase an additional lot in 2010. We need to be ready to make a case for an additional lot of planes. That’s 20 in 2010. Then we can get another multiyear agreement.”

The Air Force has been clear with Pentagon leadership, he said, and while Congress understands there are competing service priorities, unnecessarily creating a three-year gap in fighter production is not acceptable. Even if a compromise number for the F-22 — something between 183 and 381 — can be reached, it will likely rest squarely with Congress to make it happen, he said.

“I think Congress is going to have to be there, battling all the way,” Gingery said.

The Air Force and the Defense Department tried a similar strategy in 2007 to buy two F-35s.

The 2007 supplemental budget called for spending $389 million to purchase the two jets as replacements for F-16s lost in Iraq. Lawmakers didn’t buy the Air Force’s logic that test versions of F-35s should replace operational F-16s and the Joint Strike Fighter request was stripped from the budget.

In his letter, England also offered to brief Congress on the rationale behind his decision to cut off Raptor production at 183. Congressional aides said they expect to take him up on that offer, probably in the form of an early-March joint hearing among House Armed Services subcommittees on tactical air requirements in the fiscal 2009 budget, if not before.

The testimony, as well as the reports England has indicated to members he is ready to share, will weigh heavily with members as they put together the 2009 authorization and spending bills, congressional sources said.

England has long favored the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is still in the very early stages of production, over the Raptor.

“The Department has examined in depth the mix of tactical aviation forces and capabilities needed to execute the National Military strategy,” England wrote. “The evaluation shows that investing in fifth-generation fighters for all three services by buying the more modern F-35 provides more effective capability to the joint force commander than concentrating investments in a single service by buying more F-22s.”

Air Force officials, in defiance of Pentagon leadership, continue to stand firm with the position that the current order of F-22s is not sufficient, but are not about to turn down even a handful more.

The Air Force maintains the necessity of having 381 F-22s. We welcome any opportunity to keep the F-22 line open, bridging the production of fifth-generation fighters,” said service spokesman Maj. David Small.


Posizione originale su defensenews.com

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