Order for 648 Jets Could Be Slashed to 442, Lockheed Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Air Force is discussing scaling back purchases of Lockheed F-22 jet fighters to 442 aircraft from the planned 648, a Lockheed official said Monday.

At about $95 billion, the F-22 procurement program is the Pentagon's biggest and Lockheed's most important project for the next 20 years.

The Defense Department is conducting a comprehensive review of major weapons programs and considering a wide range of options, among them canceling one or more of the current aircraft programs.

Gary Riley, F-22 program manager, said he could not assess the likelihood of a major cutback in orders. Future F-22 production, excluding $15.7 billion for development, was expected to cost $79 billion. A reduction of 206 aircraft apparently would lower that cost by as much as $25 billion. Riley said he had no specific information on such a cutback.

Riley said Lockheed passed a preliminary design review last month, so the firm could begin production engineering. The review turned up no major technical problem, though the F-22 design is about 800 pounds heavier than the target weight of 31,010 pounds (excluding engines and fuel).

The Air Force extended the F-22 schedule for a year after Congress deleted $263 million for fiscal 1992 and the company experienced increases in its overhead costs.

Riley also said Lockheed is moving a weapons simulator facility from its Rye Canyon facility near Valencia to its Ft. Worth plant. Relatively few jobs are involved, but Lockheed touted the facility as the most advanced simulator in the aerospace industry when it was opened in the late 1980s.

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