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Panel Tells AF to Consider Buying F-20s : House Group Wants a Decision on Cheaper Fighter in Fiscal ’87

Times Staff Writer

A House Armed Services subcommittee voted in closed session Tuesday to instruct the Pentagon to consider purchasing the Northrop F-20 jet fighter in fiscal 1987, congressional sources said.

But the subcommittee rejected proposals by Rep. Jim Courter (R-N.J.) and Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach) to direct the Air Force to purchase F-20s in fiscal 1986, which begins Oct. 1.

The subcommittee’s decision does little more than ratify the current position of Air Force officials, who testified last week before a Senate subcommittee that they intend to consider the F-20 in fiscal 1987. The proposal approved by the subcommittee had been offered by Rep. Samuel S. Stratton (D-N.Y.).

The F-20 is roughly comparable to General Dynamics’ F-16 fighter plane. The current Air Force budget request for fiscal 1986 calls for the purchase of F-16 fighters at a cost of $19 million each, but no F-20 fighters--even though Northrop has made an unsolicited offer to sell the F-20 at a fixed price of $15 million each.

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The Administration had sought authorization to buy 180 F-16s next year, but the House Armed Services Committee trimmed that to 150.

Long Debate Seen

Pentagon spokesman Michael I. Burch said Tuesday that, when fiscal 1987 purchases of the F-20 are considered, “the advantage of competition and the disadvantages of procuring yet another fighter aircraft will be discussed.”

“It could be a very long debate,” he added.

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Courter and Badham said that they would offer their proposals again next week when the matter is considered by the full Armed Services Committee.

Badham’s proposal would have instructed the Air Force to establish a competition between the F-20 and the F-16 in fiscal 1986. He proposed also that 24 F-20s be purchased in fiscal 1986 for the Air National Guard.

Courter’s proposal would have instructed the Air Force to trim its purchase of F-16s in fiscal 1986 to buy 30 F-20s.

Today, the subcommittee will take up a proposal to cut to 21 the Administration’s request for 48 MX missiles in fiscal 1986. Congress earlier this year approved funding for 21 MX missiles in the current fiscal year.


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