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Roche Urges F-22 Production Start

August 14, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Despite cost overruns in the F-22 fighter jet program and a newly revealed problem with cracks on the tail, Air Force Secretary James G. Roche on Tuesday urged that the plane move from prototype stage into production.

``It works. It works, gang,″ he told a group of defense writers. ``It’s 20 years old ... it’s time to get on with it.″

He said at a breakfast news conference that the Air Force later Tuesday would recommend to acquisition officials that the plane go into low-rate production.

Early this month, the General Accounting Office reported that production of 333 of the planes will cost from $2 billion to $9 billion more than the $37.6 billion Congress specified as the cap for the program in 1997.

The GAO has said that in order for the Air Force to stay within the $37.6 billion cap, it would have to reduce its order by 85 planes, down to 248, if the higher cost is correct and projected savings are not realized.

Some congressmen suggested the predictions of potential cost overruns _ the lower one by the Air Force and the higher one by the office of the secretary of defense _ put the Air Force’s purchasing plans at risk.

And last week, officials said seven-inch cracks had been found by X-ray in the tail of one of the six F-22 test planes that have been built, but that the cause had not been determined. It was unclear whether the cracks would prompt a redesigning of the aircraft.

The F-22 is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. to replace the Air Force’s aging F-15s.

Roche said there was no debate over the cost of the program in the next four years, that most of the overrun projected by the GAO would arise several years after that and that he believed ``something could be worked out.″

``I think it would be crazy not to go forward,″ Roche said.

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