The US Senate today voted to end production of Lockheed Martin F-22s after 2011, overturning a challenge to the Obama Administration's defence budget priorities with a surprising 18-vote majority.
The Senate voted 58-40 to strip $1.75 billion for buying seven more F-22s beyond the 187 funded in the current programme of record. The money had been added in June by the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.
The issue attracted a strong response from reform-minded senators, led by Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John McCain, as well as a rare veto threat by President Barack Obama.
Gates personally lobbied senators over the last two weeks and made several statements calling for halting further production of the F-22. In Gates's view, the 187 currently in the fleet satisfied the US Air Force's requirements, with 2,400 Lockheed F-35s and hundreds of unmanned aircraft also planned to be purchased.
The F-22's supporters, however, claimed that closing the F-22 production line would needlessly sacrifice thousands of jobs and put the USAF's air superiority mission at risk.