US passes defence spending bill

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 5, 2010
The sun is setting on F-22 production (USAF)
The sun is setting on F-22 production (USAF)

US lawmakers have finalised the US$636.4bn (A$700bn) FY2010 US defence budget, and it has been signed into law by  President Obama.

As expected, the FY010 bill sees production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter wound up in early 2012, which will give the USAF a total of 187 F-22s.

The bill has also seen the EH101 based VH-71 presidential helicopter program axed, with only sufficient funding being released to allow the previously selected Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland team to continue development on the helicopter’s mission system and to retain its workforce in anticipation of a fresh competition in the future.

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Funding has also been provided for 10 more Boeing C-17 transports – despite the aircraft not being requested by the USAF – which will extend production through mid 2012, bringing the total USAF C-17 fleet to 223 and potentially opening up further C-17 export sales opportunities.

Despite the threat of a presidential veto, funding for the continued development of the Rolls-Royce/General Electric F136 ‘alternate’ engine is included. US$465m (A$510m) has been allocated separate to the core F-35 development program funding so the 30 development and LRIP F-35s requested for the year could also be fully funded.

The Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV program has also been fully funded after previous threats to cut the number of aircraft this year.

The Bill has also had language inserted into it which will prevent the USAF from retiring up to 250 F-15s and F-16s until the completion of an independent review, which isn’t due to report until mid 2010. Congress has asked the USAF to provide more details on its ‘legacy fighter’ plans and how it intends to deal with a perceived capability gap between the retirement of these aircraft and the introduction of the F-35 from mid next decade.

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