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Bell's ARH-70 wins funding reprieve from US Senate

A US Senate appropriations panel has approved a Fiscal Year 2008 defence spending package that would rescue both the Bell Helicopter ARH-70 Arapaho and the alternate engine programme for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The Senate’s defence appropriations subcommittee passed a spending package on 11 September that gives full funding for the restructured ARH-70 programme, providing funds for Bell to produce 16 aircraft.

The programme’s fate has been uncertain since July, when the US House of Representatives voted to zero out production funds after judging the troubled programme was not ready to advance beyond the development phase.

The ARH-70’s funding status remains in limbo until the House and Senate reconcile the differences between the two bills in a joint conference later this year.

Funding for the alternate engine programme was zeroed out earlier this year by the Department of Defense, but both the full House and the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee have voted to restore full funding of $482 million for the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine for JSF.

The Senate version of the bill also fully funds DOD requests for 12 F-35s, 20 Lockheed F-22As, 52 Sikorsky UH-60s, 44 EADS North America UH-72 Lakotas and 29 Boeing CH-47s. Additionally, the Bell Boeing V-22 and Boeing F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft are fully funded in the Senate bill.

The Senate committee also voted to slash funds for eight upgraded Bell H-1s due to production delays, but funds the army’s request for four new Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA).

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