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U.S. House panel defeats bid to save A-10 'Warthog' aircraft

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee defeated an amendment to a defense spending bill on Tuesday that would have preserved funding for the U.S. fleet of A-10 "Warthog" aircraft.

The Pentagon, facing budget cuts, decided to eliminate all 283 of the tank-killer jets, saying it would save $3.7 billion over the next five years plus another $500 million in planned aircraft upgrades.

The committee voted 23-13 against the amendment to the annual appropriations bill, which was introduced by U.S. Representative Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican.

The 40-year-old, slow-flying Warthog is enormously popular among soldiers and Marines. The heavily armored aircraft can withstand ground fire while loitering for long periods above a battlefield spraying 30mm armor-piercing, depleted-uranium cannon rounds at tanks and other targets.

The U.S. Air Force says money saved by cutting the Warthog would be used to bolster readiness, which has slipped in recent years because of budget cuts, and focus on priorities for the future, such as the radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range bomber.

The vote was not necessarily the final verdict on the Warthog. The Senate must also pass its version of the Appropriations bill, which could include funding to keep the Warthog fleet.

The Senate bill would then be reconciled with the House bill before coming law.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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