The US Department of Defense has delayed a decision on extending production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 beyond a 1 March deadline imposed by Congress. It instead wants to keep all options open as it assembles its fiscal year 2010 defence budget, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters on 25 February.

Extending F-22 production partly hinges on committing funds this year for long-lead parts. The Pentagon is authorised to spend up to $140 million up to 1 March, but has so far only released $50 million.

DoD officials will notify Congress whether it plans to release the additional $90 million before 1 March, but Morrell said: "I just caution you not to read too much into whatever the communication is that's made. To know the future of the F-22 programme you will have to wait until the FY2010 budget is rolled out." The funding would purchase raw materials that could be diverted to other programmes, such as the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, he added.

 © Lockheed Martin

The new Obama administration plans to unveil its FY2010 budget request in April.

The US Air Force has invested $62 billion and purchased 183 F-22s. The DoD has authorised it to buy four more F-22s as war-time replacement aircraft in the FY2010 emergency supplemental budget request, Morrell said. The service wants to extend production beyond 187 aircraft, but has not provided a specific number. Gen Norton Schwartz, chief of staff, in February said he would not dispute reports that the USAF wants to buy about 60 more F-22s before closing the line.

Source: Flight International