The US Government's House National Security Committee (HNSC) has rejected proposed cuts to the 1998 procurement budget and, in doing so, has given a boost to the US Navy's plans to purchase McDonnell Douglas F-18E/F Super Hornet tactical aircraft.

By approving a $268 billion defence authorisation for fiscal year 1998, the HNSC has turned down a plan to reduce a $2.1 billion budget request for 20 F-18E/Fs to $1.3 billion for only four E/Fs plus 16 earlier-model F-18C/Ds.

The Senate Armed Services Committee's (SASC) version of the FY98 weapons bill calls for $268.2 billion in spending, $2.6 billion more than requested, and the SASC has fully funded the Pentagon's F-18E/F request.

The HNSC and SASC "mark ups" of the weapons bill are the first steps towards completing the Pentagon's spending plan for the fiscal year beginning 1 October.

The HNSC has also added $331 million to the DoD funding request for the Northrop Grumman B-2. The Clinton Administration and the SASC say that 21 B-2 stealth bombers are enough, but the HNSC says that the US Air Force should buy nine more.

The committees agree on the need to remanufacture 12 McDonnell Douglas AV-8Bs, one more than requested, and they both backed improved engines for TAV-8B trainers. The Pentagon seeks funds for five Bell Boeing V-22s, but the HNSC calls for seven and the SASC backs the building of six tilt-rotor aircraft.

The $2.1 billion request for the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor fighter has been supported, but Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) research spending has been re-allocated. The SASC has added $28 million for JSF research and development, to bring the level to $958 million.

The HNSC authorised $322 million for the RAH-66 Comanche in FY98, $40 million more than the request. The US Army had said it needed that amount to avoid flight-test disruptions.

Source: Flight International