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Pentagon Moves to Produce F-22 Fighter - 2001-08-16

The Pentagon is moving ahead with the first production run of its next-generation stealth fighter, the F-22.

The F-22, or "Raptor," is one of the most critical new weapons for the U.S. military. The Air Force wants more than three-hundred of them to replace the aging F-15. Like the older jet, the Raptor flies faster than sound. It would also use stealth technology to avoid enemy radar.

The program has been plagued by concerns about its cost, which is expected to reach $45 billion. But Undersecretary of Defense Pete Aldridge says the fighter is needed to ensure U.S. forces control the skies. "We want to have air-to-air dominance," he said. "We do not want any fair fights in the air. We don't want any of our troops in harm's way on the ground from air [attacks]. We've never had that happen since the Korean War and hopefully we're not going to let it happen in any future war."

The Air Force has been given clearance to buy the first batch of planes, about 13 of them in the coming fiscal year.