By Jen DiMascio

The Air Force chief of staff yesterday indicated he would welcome discussions with the defense secretary about opening the F-22 Raptor to foreign military sales.

The sale of the stealth fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin [LMT] to foreign nations was prohibited by law in the fiscal year 1998 defense appropriations act, and an effort in 2006 to overturn the prohibition was blocked.

But during recent trips to Japan and Australia–two countries that have expressed interest in the airframe–Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked repeatedly about the possibility of making a change.

During a Feb. 24 press conference in Australia, Gates said he has not delved into the ability to make the sale to Australia or Japan.

"I just need to go back and get myself better educated on this and, in concert with the secretary of State, decide whether this is a matter that we should pursue with the Congress," Gates said.

Gen. Michael Moseley said if Gates, was willing, he looked forward to a discussion of the possibility of a sale.

"You know, Secretary Gates had that right when he said we’ve got to talk about that," said Moseley during a Defense Writers group breakfast.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was responsible for the initial amendment banning foreign sales of F-22s citing the need to maintain clear air superiority.

His effort was a departure from the wishes of President Clinton, who sought to offer the F-22 first to Israel.