June 18, 2009 (by Bjørnar Bolsøy) - With a mere 31 against 30 votes the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday approved an extra funding amendment for 12 additional F-22 Raptor fighters.
A USAF F-22A is flying a demonstration during the Nellis Airshow on November 7th, 2008. [Photo by Roscoe]
Part of the 2010 Defense Department spending bill mark up, the amendment aims to provide £369 million in fiscal year 2011, shifting funds from the defense environmental cleanup fund.
The amendment will still have to make its way through the full House and Senate, but if approved will bring the total number of F-22s to 199.
One of the proponents, Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, noted that "It's a major win for Utah and also the military". Utah is the home of Hill Air Force Base, which maintains the F-22, and Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) which manufactures composite materials for the fighter.
This will keep the F-22 production line from shutting down, but Bishop and others on the committee believe the Air Force needs more than 12 additional F-22s.
"The Air Force is still pretty adamant that 240 is the minimum number" of F-22s that it should have, Bishop said. "They say 240 presents a moderate risk to our air superiority; 187, therefore, is a huge risk to our air superiority."
The surprise vote by the committee comes as an opening move in the Congressional contest over the Pentagon's weapons spending plans, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates is using to rebalance the U.S.'s ability to fight insurgent enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gates wants to cut back many of the costliest weapons programs and is confident 187 F-22 fighters is an adequate number for the Air Force.
The White House didn't budget for additional planes beyond that level in its proposed 2010 Defense Department budget.