Senate Panel Adds Potential Bridge Funding for F-22

The Senate Armed Services Committee has added $497 million to the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 defense budget request for the F-22 fighter program, potentially breathing life into attempts to keep the Raptor production line going beyond the current 183-aircraft program of record. In the May 1 release on the committee’s mark-up, the Senators say the funds could be used for advanced procurement of parts and materials for an additional lot of 24 Raptors that would be built starting in Fiscal 2010, or go towards shutting down the F-22 production line if no more aircraft are procured. Either way, the committee said the decision lies with the next Administration. The Pentagon’s request did not include any funding for additional Raptors beyond lot 9; nor did it earmark funds to close the F-22 line. But like the committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he wants to preserve those options for the next President. Among its notable marks, the committee also added: $465 million for the F-35’s competing F136 engine program that DOD has recommended repeatedly for termination; $350 million for the transformational satellite communications program; $98 million to develop the MP-RTIP advanced radar on a wide-body aircraft; and $96.9 million to support a fleet of 76 B-52H bombers in a common configuration. No money was added for the procurement of additional C-17s; nor did the committee alter the Air Force’s plan to draw down its end strength to 316,771 personnel by the end of Fiscal 2009. House authorizers are scheduled to mark up their version of the bill the week of May 5.