The Senate voted 58 to 40 to strip $1.75 billion for the Lockheed Martin Corp built planes from a $680 billion defense bill, overriding the objections of lawmakers seeking to protect manufacturing jobs in the midst of a deep recession.
“It is on the wings of these fighters that America will maintain air dominance in the coming decades, but our fleet of F-22s is not yet large enough to counter potential threats to our national security. Terminating the production of these world-class fighters would be a profound mistake for several reasons, but thankfully today's vote is not the final word on that issue. I will continue fighting for F-22 funding in the Senate,” Sen. John Cornyn said.
Approximately two-thousand people work on the project at Fort Worth's Lockheed Martin plant.
“A strong national defense is key to the safety and security of the American people. We are a nation at war and must be prepared to meet a variety of threats – from counterinsurgency warfare to conventional warfare. The F-22 will play an important role in responding to future threats we may face, and it will help ensure that our military remains the most powerful in the world,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The Senate's vote does not necessarily kill the program, as the House of Representatives included funding for the state-of-the-art fighter in its bill, which sets military spending priorities.
The two chambers must resolve their differences before sending a final bill to the president to sign into law.
Obama has threatened a veto if Congress continues to fund the F-22 beyond the 187 planes already built or in the production pipeline. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has proposed capping production as part of an overhaul of the Pentagon's weapons programs.
The radar-evading fighter jet is designed for air-to-air combat but has not seen action in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts. Critics point out that each hour of flight time requires 30 hours of maintenance and say the plane is a relic of Cold War military strategy.
The Pentagon wants instead to ramp up production of the cheaper, more versatile F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Gates said last week that funding for that program could be jeopardized if Congress continues to fund the F-22.
Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor for both planes.