The U.S. Air Force will try to persuade Pentagon leaders to restore more than $10 billion of proposed cuts to Lockheed Martin's F/A-22 fighter-jet program, Air Force Secretary...

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The U.S. Air Force will try to persuade Pentagon leaders to restore more than $10 billion of proposed cuts to Lockheed Martin’s F/A-22 fighter-jet program, Air Force Secretary James Roche said yesterday.

Pentagon plans would reduce F/A-22 production to 180 from 276. Those cuts are outlined in a budget document approved Dec. 23 by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that calls for $30 billion of overall reductions through 2011.

At about $256.8 million each, the F/A-22 is the most expensive fighter ever. The program, conceived in the 1980s to counter threats from Soviet fighters, has been criticized by some lawmakers who say it is behind schedule and over budget. Analysts have speculated for weeks that the Pentagon would cut F/A-22 production to help cover the rising costs of the war in Iraq.

Boeing is a subcontractor on the F/A-22. About 1,200 Boeing employees work on the fighter in Seattle, assembling the wings and the rear fuselage as well as integrating the avionics and planning and implementing a flight-training system.

Other parts of the aircraft are built by Lockheed in Texas. Northrop Grumman is building the radar, communications and navigation systems in Maryland. Assembly is in Marietta, Ga.

The Pentagon proposes F/A-22 cuts totaling $10.5 billion and 96 aircraft through 2011. The cuts wouldn’t start until fiscal 2008, leaving intact Air Force plans to request 25 planes in 2006 and 27 the following year.

“The budget cut was done because the president’s properly dealing with deficits,” Roche said. “It could be restored if we can make the case that requirements justify more than the number that this budget would yield.”

The Air Force will get to outline the aircraft’s capability during the latest quadrennial defense review this year, Roche said.

“The decisions in this budget document are not the final word on the F/A-22 but part of a long, drawn-out process,” said Byron Callan, a defense analyst for Merrill Lynch.

The Department of Defense’s plans to trim $30 billion in weapon costs over the next six years could trim $18 billion from Lockheed’s defense revenue, due to fewer purchases of F/A-22s but also C-130J transport planes. Northrop may lose $8 billion in sales as the Navy scales back purchases and retires ships, according to the document approved by Wolfowitz last month.

Missile-defense programs would be cut by a combined $5 billion from 2006 through 2011, the budget document says, without specifying which programs would be cut. Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing and Raytheon all work on different aspects of missile defense.

Boeing said yesterday that it is “not privy” to internal Department of Defense deliberations and is “well-positioned for the future.”