PALMDALE – The House of Representatives approved a defense authorization bill that boosts funding for the F-22A fighter, provides for improvements to Edwards Air Force Base and blocks the early retirement of the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Funding supporting Antelope Valley projects were included in the $512.9 billion 2007 defense authorization bill approved by the House on a 396 to 31 vote Thursday. The bill, HR 5122, will have to be reconciled with a version of the bill being worked on by the Senate before it goes to the president. “I am of course especially pleased that my colleagues recognized the need to strengthen the military projects in my district, and granted my requests for funding,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, whose district includes parts of the Antelope Valley. The bill includes a hefty $1.4 billion increase over the Bush administration’s request of $1.5 billion for the F-22A fighter program. The funding will allow for the purchase of 20 more fighters. The bill also includes $16 million for additional improvements to the B-2 stealth bomber fleet’s electronic equipment. The bill also includes language blocking the Pentagon from attempting to retire the U-2 reconnaissance fleet in 2007. Congressional representatives believe the Pentagon was attempting to retire the aircraft as a cost-saving measure without identifying an adequate replacement. The bill’s language blocks retirement in following years until the Pentagon certifies there would not be a gap in intelligence capabilities. Lockheed Martin employees modify, overhaul and do other work on the U-2 in Palmdale, including updating the aircraft’s cockpit displays and controls. The Pentagon had sought to retire the aircraft, believed to number about 33, by the year 2011. [email protected] (661) 267-5743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsWhile the F-22A fighters are assembled in Georgia, parts of the aircraft are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics company in Palmdale. About 400 people work on the fighter in Palmdale. The bill includes full funding of $4 billion for the Navy’s and Air Force’s combined request of development of the F-35 joint strike fighter, and $870 million for the Air Force’s request to buy five of the jet fighters in 2007. Work on the F-35 is also done in Palmdale by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, although the planes are assembled in Texas. The bill, however, cut the Bush administration’s request for $390 million to begin building components for 16 F-35s that would have been bought in 2008. The bill, instead, provides $149 million to buy components of five F-35s. The cut was directed by the House Armed Services Committee, which felt more testing and development on the jets should be conducted to avoid some of the overlap of development and production. The bill also provides funding for improvements at Edwards, including $31 million to continue a project to replace the base’s aging 15,000-foot-long runway; $5.8 million for equipment to improve the handling of test data from a number of flight test programs; and $3 million for engineering tools aimed at improving the accuracy and analysis of computer modeling and simulation.