The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F/A-22 programme has won approval to enter full-rate production in fiscal year 2006, with production to increase to 25 aircraft a year.

The decision helps to affirm confidence in dramatic manufacturing improvements for the F/A-22, which remains several aircraft behind schedule on the production line. Full-rate production clearance by the US Department of Defense also comes at a key moment for the fighter programme. The FY06 budget request proposes to halt F/A-22 production in 2010, closing the production line after building about 180 aircraft for $63.8 billion.

The US Air Force, however, is vigorously challenging that proposal, arguing to restore the programme to at least the previously funded 277 aircraft, and ideally to a total of 381.

The answer is expected to be determined during the air force's ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review, which reports findings in September.

Source: Flight International