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Only 40 New F-22s?

Colin Clark at DOD Buzz is hearing that the latest version of the White House-Pentagon back-and-forth over major defense platforms caps the F-22 fighter jet at 40 additional planes:

Word is that PR 9, the latest version of the budget from the White House, would keep the F-22 production line going for one more year and would fund at least 20 planes, and perhaps as many as 40 more aircraft.

Recall that the Air Force chief of staff recently said, as part of a strategy to increase purchases of the jet, that the service doesn’t need the 381-jet total that it traditionally has advocated, but it definitely wants more than the 183 it has on order. (One presumes that the Air Force didn’t just come up with the old total by rearranging the numerals in the current order.)

To mix a service metaphor, that amounted to the Air Force retreating to safer ground. Clark had earlier reported that the Air Force was going to get 60 more jets; that seems to be nixed.

Interestingly, the current rumor he’s got is that the forthcoming Pentagon budget will ask for fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters this year, but will ramp orders of those over the coming years while scaling back on the F-22s. Why not slice the F-22 now? “Largely because [Pentagon officials] know that Congress will fund it, desperate to keep those jobs going.” Looks like the PR campaign to portray the F-22 as a jobs program has worked.

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