The US Congress has rejected attempts to restart Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth-bomber production in its Final review of the US Department of Defense's fiscal year 1998 budget, despite boosting numbers in other programmes.

The FY98 defence-authorisation bill includes $268 billion in total spending, some $3 billion more than requested by US President Bill Clinton and $4 billion above the previous year's budget. The funds include $46 billion for weapons procurement, a $3 billion increase over the White House request, and $37 billion for weapons research and development, a $570 million boost.

Congress did increase B-2 funding by $331 million, but did not clear new production. The US Air Force says that it will use the additional funds to improve the maintainability of the stealth aircraft's low-observable materials, as well as for communications and survivability enhancements.

The B-2 has come under criticism recently over the lack of robustness of its stealth coatings.

The Pentagon's request for 20 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets was approved, as requested, despite early efforts to change the purchase to four E/Fs and 16 earlier-model F/A-18C/Ds.

The Pentagon also got its way on R&D funding for the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter.

The lawmakers axed R&D funds for the US Navy's proposed arsenal ship, from $150 million to $35 million, forcing the Navy to scrap development of the missile-armed warship.

The USAF received funds for nine Boeing C-17 transports, as requested, five Boeing F-15s (three were sought) and an equal number of Lockheed Martin F-16s (none were asked for).

The US Army will get 28 Sikorsky UH-60Ls, ten more than requested. Backers of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors again succeeded in boosting production, from the five units requested to seven.

Source: Flight International