Proposal Would Fund Last 20 Planes Due Under Current
As more details of the budget plan President Bush presented this
week become known, it's appears the lame-duck administration has
opted to leave several decisions for the next president to make...
including whether the Air Force will receive more F-22 Raptors.
Not surprisingly, reports The Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, the
$515.4 billion FY 2009 defense budget includes funding for the last
20 of a 60-aircraft purchase that began last year. It does not
include money to begin shutting the line down after that, however,
as the Pentagon wants to do after 2011 with only 183 fighters
As ANN has reported, the US
Air Force has long argued it needs at least 381 Raptors to maintain
US air superiority, and replace aging fighters in the current
fleet. A series of recent incidents involving F-15 Eagles -- once
the Air Force's premier fighter, over 20 years ago -- adds impetus
to the service's call for more planes.
While reiterating they only want 183 Raptors, even some Pentagon
officials have backed away from a hard shutdown deadline of late.
In recent testimony before Congress, Deputy Defense Secretary
Gordon England said the line would remain open to build additional
F-22s, to replace fighters that may be lost in combat.
A final decision, however, will need to wait until after Bush's
successor takes office in January 2009. "I do believe... that the
next administration will have to make the call on what they want to
do, ultimately," said Pentagon Comptroller Tina Jonas, after the
budget plan's unveiling.
Workers at Lockheed Martin and Boeing -- who build the fuselage
and empennage segments, respectively, on the F-22 --- aren't
complaining about a lack of hard news. The delay gives them some
breathing room, and the hope of continued orders.
Air Force officials also are breathing a sigh of relief... as
money originally earmarked towards closing down the Raptor line
would instead be diverted towards repairs for the troubled F-15
fleet under the budget proposal, according to Vice Adm. Steve
Stanley, director for force structure, resources and assessment for
the Defense Department's joint staff.
Keeping the F-22 production line in business for now, he added,
leaves "a decision about F-22 to the next administration, which
will have to execute the program either way it goes."