Washington (AFP) June 18, 2009
The US House Armed Services Committee has passed an amendment extending production of the F-22 Raptor, a stealth fighter jet the Pentagon has sought to scrub.
Lawmakers voted 31 to 30 on Wednesday to provide 369 million dollars over two years to purchase parts to construct 12 more of the fighters, which are built by Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates had sought to cap production at 187 jets, meaning only four more would be built. But many Republicans balked at the administration's plans.
The Air Force has also long disagreed with halting production, and just last year called for a fleet of 381 fighters.
Last year Gates sacked the service's two top leaders officially over two major nuclear-related blunders in a move which was also largely suspected to have been fueled by their position on the F-22 program.
In 2009, the Pentagon spent 2.9 billion dollars on the planes, which cost some 200 million dollars each. A program that emerged out of the Cold War, the fighter is accused by its critics of not having been adapted to current conflicts. Supporters though say that there is a need to ensure US air superiority as China and Russia invest in fighter jets.
The Raptor has not been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
The procurement spending came as an amendment to the Pentagon's 2010 defense budget for 550.4 billion dollars. The panel approved the spending bill by a 61 to zero vote.
The budget bill also provides 130 billion dollars for "overseas contingency operations," including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a departure from the George W. Bush administration, which had funded the wars through emergency supplemental appropriations.
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Paris (UPI) Jun 16, 2009
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