DATE=7/26/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=COHEN - FIGHTER PLANE (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-252154 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=TOKYO CONTENT= INTRO: Defense Secretary William Cohen says he will fight hard to get Congress to restore money for a controversial, next-generation Air Force fighter jet. The U-S House of Representatives chopped one-point- eight-billion dollars from the F-22 (jet) program; the Senate earlier approved the funding. Supporters of the F-22 "Raptor" say it will be the best fighter plane the world has ever seen. Critics say it will be the most expensive. V-O-A's Jim Randle reports. TEXT: Mr. Cohen says he will meet with as many members of Congress as possible, particularly those serving on the conference committee that must resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the defense spending bill. Mr. Cohen says he will tell members the budget cut will cause costly delays and likely kill the complex program. Mr. Cohen says the F-22 is designed to clear the skies of enemy planes -- making it possible for U- S spy planes and bombers to reach heavily defended targets. He says without the F-22, those bombers will need expensive upgrades to survive any conflict. And Mr. Cohen says the cost of killing the Raptor may be measured in American pilots' lives. /// COHEN ACT /// Our pilots will be flying F-15's and that's technology we developed back in the late 60's and early 70's. It has been upgraded to be sure, but they will be flying aircraft that are considerably older than we think is wise. /// END ACT /// But congressional critics of the F-22 say it may cost 200-million dollars per plane, several times the price of current fighters that performed well recently over Iraqi and Yugoslav skies. They also point out the F-22 is one of three different combat aircraft currently under development in the United States. The others include a new bomber and a major upgrade for the Navy's best fighter plane. The programs could cost a total of 340-billion dollars, which some members of Congress say is more than the United States can afford. ///REST OPT /// Mr. Cohen spoke to reporters on a flight to Tokyo, where he will meet with Japan's prime minister and defense minister to talk about concerns that North Korea may test-launch a new, more-powerful ballistic missile and about the strained relations between Taiwan and China. Later, Mr. Cohen travels to South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia for further talks. (signed) neb/jr/jo/rrm 26-Jul-1999 08:55 AM LOC (26-Jul-1999 1255 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .