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U.S. House kills F-35 jet engine plan

by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Feb 17, 2011
In a victory for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Obama administration, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down funding for a costly alternate engine for the F-35 combat jet which senior military officials long opposed.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was said to be "gratified" by the 233-198 vote against an amendment that would have provided $450 million for the second engine. A total of 110 Republican bolted their party leadership and joined 123 Democrats in supporting the measure.

"It would be a waste of nearly $3 billion in a time of economic distress and the money is needed for higher-priority defense efforts," Gates told members of Congress in advance of the vote.

The vote on the engine came at the end of a debate on a $1.2 trillion spending bill that lawmakers inherited after last year's collapse of the budget process, Businessweek reported.

The vote also signaled a strong break by new legislators with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who aggressively supported the amendment because the production of the new engine would provide more than 1,000 jobs in his state.

The Joint Strike Fighter program is the country's most expensive weapons program and scrapping the alternate F-35 engine marks one of the most important cancellations this year.

The engine in question was to be built by General Electric and Rolls-Royce as an alternative to the original engine built for the F-35 warplane by Pratt and Whitney.

With the vote, debate over U.S. spending needs will move to the U.S. Senate where Democrats have a majority.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., who led the fight to scrap the engine, billed the prospect of its funding "a waste."

The White House had warned that it would have vetoed any bill sanctioning funding for the second engine, which would have been built in Indiana and Ohio.

"The broader F-35 program already has been beset by cost overruns and delays, which is projected to drive the per unit price of the plane to $92 million," Businessweek reported.

As part of the Joint Strike Fighter, the warplane was designed for use by the nation's Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in a bid to achieve economies of scale.

GE, which together with Rolls-Royce have spent $3 billion on the development of the second engine, said it would ask the Senate to restore funding.

Even if that happens, the measure would require follow-up approval by the House-Senate conference committee.

Last May, the House, when Democrats were control of the body, voted to keep the project going with 231 lawmakers favoring the bill against 193.

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Taiwan leader says US jets critical
Washington (AFP) Feb 17, 2011
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday renewed his call for the United States to sell fighter jets to the island, arguing its survival was at stake despite his outreach to China. Taiwan "is a sovereign state; we must have our national defense," Ma, who often plays down suggestions of the island's separate identity, said in an interview with The Washington Post. "While we negotiate w ... read more

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