Sen. John McCain moved Monday to eliminate $1.75 billion recently inserted into the proposed 2010 defense budget for more fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.
The Arizona Republican, along with Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, filed an amendment to cut the extra money for seven more F-22's. The Senate Armed Services Committee last month narrowly approved the additional funding requested by Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss.
McCain and Levin, the committee's chairman, voted against the additional finds. The full Senate may vote on the defense spending bill this week. The House last month voted to include a $369 million down payment for 12 additional fighters to its version of the defense bill.
The White House has threatened to veto legislation that includes money for more of the radar-evading jets.
On the Senate floor, McCain said he also will strongly recommend the White House veto the defense bill if lawmakers don't act to end F-22 production.
Supporters of the F-22 have said capping production at 187 aircraft is too risky with potential adversaries like Iran, North Korea and China looming.
McCain disputed such arguments. Focusing on timely delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter, also built by Lockheed Martin, is in the best interest of the country and will be a weapon system that can meet future threats, he said.
Chambliss and other lawmakers who represent districts where F-22 production jobs are at stake have lobbied hard to keep the program. Lockheed's primary manufacturing plant is in Georgia, but key parts of the plane also are made in Texas and California.
McCain said the rationale for keeping a weapon system should never be about job creation, but about defending the nation.
The extra money would extend production of the F-22 beyond the 187 aircraft that Defense Secretary Robert Gates says are needed. Gates has argued that buying any more of the jets, which cost $140 million a piece, will undermine the Pentagon's ability to increase the size of U.S. ground forces and purchase gear for fighting unconventional wars against insurgents.
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The vaunted invincibility of the F-22 founders on two incurable flaws: First, the plane’s so-called “low probability of intercept” radar may now be easily detected, thanks to the proliferation of spread spectrum technology in cell phones and laptops. That creates an environment where, if the F-22 pilot turns on his radar, he announces his presence over hundreds of miles. Even better for the enemy, the radar makes an unmistakable beacon for opposing missiles.
Second, when combat forces F-22 pilots to turn off radars, they’ll find themselves forced into a close-in, maneuvering fight. Compromised by stealth and heavy radar electronics, the plane’s agility, short range missiles, and guns are nothing special — as one of us observed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada when an F-16 “shot down” an F-22 in exercises.
As for the plane’s advertised ability to cruise supersonically the F-22’s low fuel capacity (27% of takeoff weight, only two thirds of what’s needed for combat-useful supersonic endurance in enemy airspace) reduces this to an air show trick. Why the big fuel shortfall? To make room for stealth technologies and radar electronics.
In summary, a vote for continuing F-22 production is a vote to decay pilots’ skills, to deny them a truly great fighter, to shrink the number of pilots and planes we can field, and to reward Congress’ unending appetite for pork. The new 2010 Defense Authorization bill should be vetoed if a single F-22 is added.