Entries in Fighter Jets (3)


Obama Administration to Inform Congress About Taiwan F-16 Deal This Week

Erik Simonsen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration plans to inform Congress later this week about whether or not the United States will sell new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan or upgrade its existing fleet, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
The administration provided an advance briefing on Capitol Hill on Friday, which soon leaked stories that the U.S. will upgrade the existing fleet and decline to sell Taiwan new planes.
The official would not confirm those reports, and would not speak for attribution since Congress has not yet been formally notified of the decision.
“Our view is that something has gotten lost in translation over the last couple of days on this issue. First, the U.S. is profoundly committed to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that commitment remains unwavering. Second, the scale and pace of def article sales to Taiwan over the past two and a half years is unprecedented,” the official said, noting that arms sales to Taiwan under the Obama administration will be double what they were under President George W. Bush’s second term.
While not confirming the leaked reports, the official said upgrading the existing fleet will provide the same quality plane as newer models, but at a cheaper price and would allow for 145 upgrade planes instead of only 66 new ones.
The sale of fighter jets to Taiwan has been controversial on a number of fronts. China remains opposed to any arms sales to Taiwan and Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, had pushed for the new planes because they were being built in his state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Terminates Controversial Jet Engine

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon announced Monday it has stopped payment on a controversial fighterjet engine program that military brass long decried as a boondoggle but had thrived for years anyway with the backing of powerful leaders in Congress and a push from a brigade of well-connected lobbyists.

"The Department of Defense today notified the General Electric/Rolls Royce Fighter Engine Team and the Congress that the F136 Joint Strike Fighter engine contract has been terminated," a Defense Department release said Monday. "The stop work order ended the expenditure of $1 million per day on an extra engine that the [Pentagon] has assessed as unneeded and wasteful."

The statement was intended to bring finality to a decision that has for years been grist for an intensive public relations and lobbying war inside Washington. President Obama identified the engine, being developed jointly by General Electric and Rolls Royce, as a symbol of wasteful spending. He and others decried it as an unnecessary duplication of work already contracted to Pratt & Whitney, which had been tapped to design the propulsion system for the next generation of American fighter jets, known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

"The Bush administration opposed this engine. The Obama administration opposes it. We have recommended for several years now against funding this engine, considering it a waste of money," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters last May. "To argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste...frankly, I don't track the logic."

The Pentagon and the president repeatedly called for the program to be cut from the budget, but Congress always responded by setting aside more money for the project. Supporters of the alternate engine said taxpayers would benefit by having two defense contractors competing to develop propulsion systems for the fighter jet. Over the long haul, they said, the competition would force the price down and produce overall savings.

Critics disputed that argument, saying the development of two engines represented an enormous extra expense with no guarantee that it would yield savings. They also accused GE and Rolls Royce of exploiting their presence in key congressional districts around the country -- factories doing work on the engine are located within a few miles of districts held by House Speaker John Boehner, R.-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R.-Virginia.

The competing arguments helped fuel one of the most costly lobbying and PR campaigns in Washington in recent memory. The clash came to a head earlier this year as congressional leaders and the president negotiated the final details of the 2011 budget under a threat of a government shutdown. The engine project wound up on the cutting room floor.

GE, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics has spent more on lobbying over the past decade than any other American company, vowed Monday to continue to work on the project in the hopes it could be revived as Congress takes up the 2012 budget.

"While we are deeply disappointed by the DoD's 'Notice of Termination,' GE and Rolls-Royce remain committed to the [engine] and the significant benefits it brings to the American taxpayer and our fighting men and women," GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said in an email to ABC News.

"GE and Rolls-Royce will work closely with our Congressional supporters during the 2012 budget process in pursuit of incorporating the engine into the program, and preserving competition," Kennedy said. "We continue to be encouraged by the bi-partisan support for the engine on the merits of its performance and value. There is a significant willingness in Congress to revisit the [engine] funding debate as the consequences of terminating the engine are being fully understood."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Critics Slam Obama Admin. for 'Hiding' Massive Saudi Arms Deal

Photo Courtesy - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has quietly forged ahead with its proposal to sell $60 billion worth of fighter jets and attack helicopters to Saudi Arabia without the usual amount of Congressional oversight, despite questions raised in legislative inquiries and in an internal congressional report about the wisdom of the deal.

The massive arms deal would be the single largest sale of weapons to a foreign nation in the history of the U.S., outfitting Saudi Arabia with a fully modernized, potent new air force.

But some critics are questioning the arrangement, and the seemingly backdoor efforts by the Obama administration to avoid a more probing congressional review. Congress was only notified about the deal last month, just as members were headed home for the November elections, leaving members of Congress just 30 days to review the sale and raise objections. The shortened review period concludes Saturday. With most members leaving Washington on Friday, any significant effort to block the deal appears dead for now, officials said.

The Obama administration has touted the deal as a boon for American jobs, and as a move to solidify the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia at a time when American intelligence is dependent on the Islamic nation for help in the war on terror. Earlier this month, it was a tip from Saudi intelligence that helped foil an al Qaeda plot to hide a bomb in a desktop printer aboard a UPS cargo plane.

The arrangement would ship 84 F-15 fighter jets and more than 175 attack helicopters to the Saudis over the next 15 years. The choppers in particular, would "bolster Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism capabilities," Gates and Clinton wrote in their letter this week to congressional leaders.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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