20 More Raptors?

The Senate and House passed the 2008 defense spending bill, signaling approval of a conference report that urges the Air Force to prepare to procure an additional 20 F-22A Raptors, above the currently approved 183. The conference report suggests the service redirect $526 million now identified in the 2009 budget for production line shut down toward “advance procurement items,” specifically “long lead specialty metal items.” Should the Air Force not succeed in getting approval for these 20 additional fighter, conferees say the metals could be used for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force does need to buy 381 Raptors to fill out its air expeditionary force, but a tight budget has kept the number artificially small. In September, Lockheed Martin officials warned that the company must begin shutting down the line next year if there’s no procurement money in the 2009 budget.