The Senate voted to terminate further production of the Air Force's topline F-22 fighter jets Tuesday, giving President Obama a major spending victory and siding with the Pentagon's desire for smaller jets better suited to 21st century wars.
F-22 supporters complained the action would be a blow to long-term national defense -- and cost thousands of jobs in the middle of the recession.
The 58-40 vote to cut the money from a $680 billion defense bill was a hard-fought victory for Obama, who had threatened to veto defense spending legislation if it included funds for more F-22s. Wavering lawmakers heard repeatedly from Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior administration officials.
The vote was "a signal that we are not going to continue to build weapons systems with cost overruns which outlive their requirements for defending this nation," declared Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, who joined Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin in arguing for cutting off production.
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The $1.75 billion was aimed at adding seven F-22s to the current plan to deploy 187 of the twin-engine stealth planes. Of those 187, the Air Force has received 143 and is waiting for delivery of 44 more.
Gates, first appointed by former President George W. Bush, wants to shift military spending to programs more attuned to today's unconventional wars. The F-22, designed for midair combat, has been irrelevant to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore unused there.
Gates and other Pentagon officials want to put more emphasis on the next-generation F-35 Lightning, a single-engine jet that would be used primarily to attack targets on the ground and would replace the F-16 and the Air Force's aging fleet of A-10s. The Air Force plans to buy more than 1,700 F-35s, which are currently being produced in small numbers for testing purposes. Versions of that plane, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, are also being built for the Navy and Marine Corps, another plus for supporters.
The defense bill has money to build 30 F-35s.