The Lockheed F-117A Stealth fighter, invisible to enemy radar, disappeared Tuesday from the 1992 federal budget as well.
A House-Senate conference committee failed to appropriate $560 million to restart production of the jet, reversing an effort led by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Although Nunn had won approval from a conference committee of the House and Senate armed services committees to build four new aircraft starting in fiscal 1992, the program was not funded by the appropriations conference, and for all intents is now a dead issue, sources said. The conference's action became public Tuesday.
From the start, some industry officials believed that the effort to restart the program was a political subterfuge, but after the Armed Services Committee approved the measure in early November it appeared that the program had a serious chance of going forward.
Its death occurred behind closed doors. The matter was never debated in the conference committee meeting, and the committee report makes no mention of the decision, other than noting the monetary figures. The report was entered into the record Monday.
The Air Force, however, had opposed the deal from the start, arguing that it did not want to invest into what it considered 10-year-old technology. Moreover, Nunn wanted to pay for the F-117 by cutting back purchases of the F-16, which fueled a further controversy.
Lockheed officials said Tuesday that they weren't sure what happened.
"They probably thought of some other things they wanted to use the money for," Lockheed spokesman Jim Ragsdale said.
Lockheed had never put the F-117 program into its financial planning. Indeed, at an aerospace conference earlier this month, Lockheed Chairman Daniel Tellep displayed a briefing chart of the company's programs, and for the F-117 program he showed a large question mark.