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Fri, Feb 29, 2008

USAF Pushes For Extension To C-130J Production

Line Scheduled To Close In 2010

Officials with the US Air Force aren't sure whether they want to order more Lockheed Martin C-130J turboprop transports in the near future. They want to have the option, however, and that may not be available if the production line closes down as scheduled in 2010.

USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley told the House Armed Services Committee this week the service is still negotiating an offer, presented last year by Lockheed, for 120 new C-130Js. The multi-year contract could be worth more than $6 billion, reports The Hill.

"We must maintain and extend the existing production lines," Moseley told the committee. "This aircraft represents America’s best technology and capability."

In statements to the press, however, USAF Secretary Michael Wynne told reporters the Air Force is "trying to make sure we have a need" for all those aircraft... especially as the service is also battling lawmakers to authorize more funding in the fiscal year 2009 budget for more C-17 Globemaster III transports, and high-tech F-22 Raptor fighters. Wynne concedes Lockheed's offer does represent "an attractive opportunity."

The Air Force came under criticism during Wednesday's hearing for submitting nearly $19 billion in additional, unfunded requests to lawmakers -- above and beyond the money proposed by President Bush earlier this month.

California Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher called out the administration for its mode of operation -- noting the White House has left the Air Force to scramble for more money from lawmakers in the past. She termed the practice "a nasty little habit the administration has gotten into," adding it leaves the Air Force little choice but to purchase fewer planes, at more expensive prices, than a larger deal would allow.

The USAF has asked Congress for eight C-130Js in its unfunded requirements list, as well as 15 C-17s. As ANN has reported, the service also hopes lawmakers will approve funding for more than the 183 F-22s currently authorized for the Air Force.



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