The US Senate appropriations committee has passed a $594 billion defence spending bill for fiscal year 2014 that eliminates funding to buy Sierra Nevada/Embraer Super Tucanos and Mil Mi-17 transport helicopters for Afghanistan's military.
The bill follows similar moves by the House of Representatives, which approved its version of the defence bill on 24 July. The Senate version now must come before the full chamber for a vote, and any differences between the two bills must be worked out with the House chamber in a conference committee. But Congress is very close to eliminating two key programmes aimed at bolstering the capabilities of Afghan security forces before the planned US drawdown beginning next year.
Both programmes have been highly controversial with US-based defence contractors and within the acquisition bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
The Super Tucano contract was awarded by the US Air Force in February after a gruelling, three-year acquisition process. Beechcraft had proposed the AT-6 to win the 20-aircraft light air support contract, and vowed to appeal to Congress to prevent Super Tucano sales from spreading beyond Afghanistan. Sikorsky, meanwhile, lobbied against the Mi-17 deal, which was also the target of a critical report by the military's inspect general.
Despite these cancellation threats, the appropriations bill passed by the Senate fully funds a range of aircraft development and production programmes sought by the US armed services. These include the USAF's long range strike bomber and Boeing KC-46 tanker, and the navy's next-generation jammer and Northrop Grumman MQ-4 Triton unmanned air system. Production programmes that received full finding in the proposal are the Boeing AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, the Lockheed Martin C-130J, the Boeing P-8A, the Nothrop E-2D and the Bell Boeing MV-22.
The Senate appropriations committee also approved the Pentagon's requested F-35 purchase, but limits funds in FY2015 "to maintain focus on developmental testing and software deliveries".