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Gates Calls for Cuts to High-Tech Weapons Programs

Two F-22 Raptor aircraft are shown in this April 2, 2007, file image provided by the U.S. Air Force. (AP Photo)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday recommended a broad range of budgetary cuts to high-tech weapons programs, including production of the F-22 fighter jet. 

In a move that won mixed reviews from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Gates said his $534 billion budget proposal represents a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and reflects a shift in priorities from fighting conventional wars to the newer threats U.S. forces face from insurgents in places such as Afghanistan.

He called for production of the F-22 jet to stop at 187 jets. The U.S. military has 183 jets in service now, so just four more would be funded as part of the fiscal 2009 supplemental budget if President Obama approves the recommendations. The planes cost $140 million each.

Lockheed Martin has already warned that ending this production would result in the loss of more than 90,000 jobs. 

Plans to build a new helicopter for the president and a helicopter to rescue downed pilots would also be canceled. A new communications satellite would be scrapped and the program for a new Air Force transport plane would be ended.

Some of the Pentagon's most expensive programs would also be scaled back. The Army's $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program would lose its armored vehicles. Plans to build a shield to defend against missile attacks by rogue states would also be scaled back.

To fight new threats from insurgents, Gates is proposing more funding for special forces and other tools. 

"In many ways, my recommendations represent a cumulative outcome of a lifetime spent in the national security arena -- but above all, questions asked, experience gained and lessons learned from over two years of leading this department, and in particular, from our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates said. 

He said his recommendations would "profoundly reform" the way the Defense Department does business. 

"We must re-balance this department's programs in order to institutionalize and finance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies," he said. 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said in a written statement that Gates' plan was a "major step in the right direction." 

"It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow," he said. 

But Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in YouTube video posted on his Senate Web site, said he was "very disappointed" Obama was preparing to cut back the military budget in a time of war, while he's increasing spending everywhere else.

"I can't believe what we heard today," he said. "Right now we have our men and women in uniform, in harm's way, and we hear an announcement we're gutting ... our military." 

Inhofe and five other senators sent a letter to Obama opposing what they called "deep cuts in U.S. missile defense programs that are critically important to protecting our homeland and our allies against the growing threat of ballistic missiles."

The promised emphasis on budget paring is a reversal from the Bush years, which included a doubling of the Pentagon's spending since 2001.

Yet some programs would grow. Gates proposed speeding up production of the F-35 fighter jet, which could end up costing $1 trillion to manufacture and maintain 2,443 planes. The military would buy more speedy ships that can operate close in to land. And more money would be spent outfitting special forces troops that can hunt down insurgents. 

The Government Accountability Office reported last week that 96 of the Pentagon's biggest weapons contracts were over budget by a "staggering" figure of $296 billion. 

A bill in Congress would require the Pentagon to do a better job of making sure proposed weapons are affordable and perform the way they should before the military spends big sums on them. The Defense Department has already adjusted its acquisitions policy to achieve some of those goals.

FOX News' Justin Fishel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.