The F-22 Saga Continues

In the latest installment about the F-22 (also known as “The Jet that Wouldn’t Die”), the Senate has taken up the 2010 defense bill and with it, the most contentious issue: the $1.75 billion Hail Mary pass thrown to score another seven jets. The Raptor’s future is anyone’s guess, and F-22 builder Lockheed Martin has its fate in congressional hands.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if the provision for the seven F-22s makes it to his desk. And speaking of odd bedfellows, longtime F-22 foe Arizona Sen. John McCain has called for the provision to be removed, as has Senate Armed Forces Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI).*

Love can be so fickle.

Enter (scorned) labor. It has been reported F-22 supporters have received letters from several labor organizations (no surprise) and even have been contacted by National Guard leaders who want Rapture (Rapture in good times; Raptor, in bad) to continue production past its current cap.

It is anyone’s guess what the defense bill going to the president will look like. It is interesting to note the lengths some in the Senate went for seven paltry aircraft. While these would keep production lines open a little longer, maybe this is about keeping them open a lot longer by wrangling approval for the F-22 to be sold abroad.  Lawmakers and others have sought the green light for an export version of Rapture, which is not approved for foreign sale. As we have recounted in the past, countries like Japan are clamoring to get a piece of F-22 heaven. Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye has pushed hard for an exportable Raptor. We would think this has something to do with his state’s economic ties to Japan. (Note: It has been nearly 70 years since Japan last bombed Hawaii — without the benefit of the F-22.)

The production of the Raptor was to be halted at 187. The Air Force (as well as the Navy) was to move toward the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a bird that has received more adoration than a starlet at Cannes. It is built by F-22 maker Lockheed.

[update] Levin has withdraw his ammendment to halt the additional funding for the F-22. Despite the July 15 move, he has said both he and fellow McCain will continue to work to stop the F-22 at 187 aircraft.

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