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All Eyes on Congress: Continuing F-22 production is “not a political nicety” for the Air Force but rather “a necessity” for the defense of the nation, says Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). In an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Times, Gingrey writes that 183 Raptors—the current program of record—are “woefully inadequate” to fulfill the National Military Strategy and “significantly more” are needed. Gingrey, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, represents the Congressional district in which Lockheed Martin assembles the F-22, so he does have a dog in this fight. But he says what we have been saying: The F-35 is not a stand-in replacement for the F-22, and upgrading F-15s and F-16s would still leave these aging airframes vulnerable to current and future threats. “One need not look further than the current conflict between Russia and Georgia to see that future potential conventional military threats are very real,” Gingrey writes. House and Senate authorizers are expected to complete their work on the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill in the coming weeks. “Americans—and the Russians and Chinese—will be watching,” Gingrey writes. The HASC added money to the Pentagon’s budget request to keep the F-22 line going. Its Senate counterpart provided funds that could be applied to continued production, but could also be used instead to shut down the production line, depending on the path that the next Administration chooses.