Cracks began to appear last week in the US Department of Defense's (DoD) controversial plan to cut $30 billion from its budget over the next five years as industry rallied Congressional support for their endangered programmes. A quarter of the US Senate, 24 senators, signed a letter to President George Bush seeking to overturn the plan to terminate procurement of the Lockheed Martin C-130J transport.

The US Air Force, meanwhile, says it will fight to restore planned cuts in Lockheed Martin/Boeing F/A-22 Raptor stealth fighter procurement during the forthcoming Quadrennial Defence Review.

The DoD plans to cut the number of F/A-22s from 277 to 181 aircraft by ending procurement in fiscal year 2008, but the USAF still believes it needs 381 aircraft, says chief of staff Gen John Jumper.

Lockheed says it will have to close its Marietta, Georgia facility, plus satellite plants in four other states, if C-130J and F/A-22 procurement is terminated. The company bears the brunt of the cuts planned by the DoD, with its US Army/Navy Joint Common Missile and USAF Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser - Extended Range programmes also marked for termination.

C-130J supporters moved quickly to try to reverse the termination before the DoD budget request went to the printers at the end of last week. If Senate pressure fails to overturn the cut, supporters will have to fight for funding to be restored during the Congressional mark-up of the budget later this year.

Critics argue the DoD will not achieve the $5 billion saving expected because of termination fees, higher prices for the remainingC-130Js and higher overhead costs, which could add up to around $1 billion. The DoD plans to cancel the $4.1 billion multi-year contract for 62 USAF and Marine Corps aircraft signed in March 2003. Ending procurement in FY06 will leave the USAF 115 aircraft short of its planned 168 C-130Js and the USMC 18 short of its planned 51 KC-130J tankers. Lockheed has made saving the C-130J a priority as it has more time to rally support for the F/A-22.



Source: Flight International