Monday, December 14, 2009

The Independent: "US threat to Rolls-Royce's fighter engine"

London's Independent reports on the latest problems with the F136:

Loren Thompson, an analyst at America's Lexington Institute, believes Rolls-Royce's engine could be running as much as a year behind schedule. "GE and Rolls can no longer hold to their baseline schedule, and are being forced to replan their entire programme," he said.

A report by Lexington says Rolls-Royce managed just 52 hours of testing this year, because of "four major [engine] failures". The report said the engine would not be ready to benchmark against P&W until 2016. A Rolls-Royce source called this "rubbish".

Rolls-Royce's latest setback involves redesigning a component that helps hold the engine together. A spokesman for the Rolls-Royce/GE joint venture in the US said the re-design was not a particularly complex job and full testing would resume early next year. He said: "The [engine] programme continues to operate within budget and has met all major milestones on schedule ... The engine has accumulated over 550 hours of test time, with more than 800 hours of test since the programme began."

Full story here...

Friday, December 11, 2009

DoD Buzz: F136 Tests Lag Four Months

DoD Buzz has the latest on the alternate engine. The story notes that the backup engine program currently has a "$30 mil­lion a month burn rate" but only 52 hours of testing complete on product-​​configuration engines.

Full story here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Truth and Consequences

Proponents of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter received another scare recently when $232 million in funding for vital tooling was placed in jeopardy as part of ongoing federal budget negotiations. While this funding will probably be restored, it could have severely and artificially compromised future production F-35 capacity, which in turn would raise unit costs of the aircraft and slow fighter deliveries to the U.S. and especially its allies.

Why raise an issue that may be on the road to being solved? Because it’s emblematic of the “zero sum” reality inherent in the budgeting process. There is no shortage of priorities, including national defense, yet hundreds of millions of dollars may be wasted on funding an unwanted, unnecessary, under performing alternate engine, in turn, potentially compromising 50-80 airframes, a significant number especially at a relatively early stage in the aircraft’s marketing life.

In light of the latest F136 engine failure and resultant ceasing of all testing, the fourth engine incident in just 52 test hours, the F136 team will be unable to resume testing until early 2010. This means that production F136 engines will not commence delivery in 2012, thus dispensing with the current baseline schedule and necessitating a new (and further elongated) path forward. It has been reported that the alternate engine team is working on a replan for their engine.

Program slippage on this scale is no academic exercise; it will affect nearly every aspect of the F-35, from cost to risk mitigation. And international customers, who play a crucial role in lowering overall unit costs for everyone including the American taxpayer, will have to wait even longer to have an option in propulsion selection.

Full competition between the F135 and F136, the whole premise for having two engines in the first place, will now slip to 2016 deliveries. And even that timeline presupposes that the root causes of multiple F136 test failures can be fully ameliorated without a fundamental redesign and that they will sustain no additional significant test failures in the months and years ahead. The jury is still out.

The F135 continues to perform extremely well, successfully powering the first flight of Lockheed Martin’s AF-1, the first production representative CTOL airplane to fly. The F135 engines also successfully powered BF-1 from Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas across country to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland for continuation of flight test. The F135 propulsion system is also poised to perform the first in-flight STOVL conversion very soon.

President Barack Obama has stated repeatedly that he would veto the federal defense budget bill if F136 funding impacts F-35 acquisition. Surely this is now beyond the shadow of doubt. Though the authorization bill has passed, President Obama could veto the appropriations bill, should it contain wasteful F136 funding.

The F-35 is an official program of record. It shows every sign of being an extremely successful fighter, serving three U.S. armed forces and potentially dozens of allies worldwide. Why some in Congress would choose to fund the F136 engine that falls farther behind the proven reliable F135 seemingly by the day is simply beyond us.

Some might say that all engines go through a difficult gestation. But it’s worth reiterating that during a similar 12-month period to the F136’s four failures in 52 hours, the F135 accumulated 1133 hours with no failures. Try as some might to obfuscate, these facts remain the same.

-- Eagleblogger

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GE, Rolls F-35 engine deliveries said delayed

Reuters writes in an exclusive piece about the problems that GE is having with their engine and about how the F136 engine will be delayed for one year.

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deliveries of an alternate F-35 fighter engine being built by General Electric Co (GE.N) and Rolls-Royce Group PLC (RR.L) will be delayed by one year, a source familiar with the program said on Tuesday.

That may be bad news for the team, which is fighting to maintain funding for the second engine for the $300 billion Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter despite opposition by the White House and Pentagon. In October, the GE-Rolls team was forced to halt testing of its developmental engine until January 2010 when a loose nut damaged turbine blades.

"The entire F136 delivery plan has slipped a year," the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told Reuters.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Tale of (Not Quite) Two Engines

As the FY10 budget battle continues on Capitol Hill, in the White House and throughout numerous federal agencies, it is worth a few moments of reflection to consider the truly monumental task at hand. Urgent funding for two wars, economic stimulus, health care reform, a looming Baby Boomer demographic tsunami, record unemployment, decreasing tax revenue, a weak dollar, resurgent adversaries across the globe and myriad other challenges constitute the greatest threat to fiscal stability in nearly a century.

Wise legislators like Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) understand that some sacrifices, desperately needed now and in the future, will have to come from non-essential, big-ticket military programs. During a late-October press breakfast, he candidly admitted, “The bottom line is there is going to be significant pressure on defense budgets going forward.”

Surely the $560 million proposed for the F136 alternate engine in FY10 alone could be better spent elsewhere. After all, these funds, as well as the billions already spent, represent just a fraction of what it will really cost over the next five years to field the F136.

It has been reported recently that during nine months of system development and demonstration, the F136 has managed just over 50 hours of testing and has suffered four known failures; that’s one failure for every dozen hours of test. The F136 team likes to tout having hundreds of hours of accomplished testing….unfortunately, that testing was pre SDD and was not accomplished with the same engine now facing so many setbacks.

Over a comparable length of SDD time, Pratt & Whitney’s F135 logged more than 700 hours with no failures. To date, those numbers stand at 12,800 hours and just four incidents which caused a delay in testing.

One of the F135 engines was recently disassembled after 2,500 cycles, equaling eight years of life, and it looked pristine, (if only I could share the photos with you). Meanwhile, another F135 engine recently logged more than 38 continuous hours of altitude qualification testing, the longest run of its type yet.

The contrast between the two programs couldn’t be starker. While the F135’s logbook grows by the day, it is reported that F136 test slots at the U.S. Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center will go unused for the next several months.

When President Barack Obama signed the defense authorization bill on October 28, he stated, "This bill isn't perfect. There is still more waste we need to cut. There are still more fights we need to win."

We agree with him, Defense Secretary Gates and others. Proposed funding for a would-be second engine is not only unaffordable, but will simply prolong an increasingly uncompetitive alternative that ironically means less choice for American taxpayers.

-- Eagleblogger

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two Engines Can Mean Twice the Problems, Costs

Defense analyst Loren Thompson writes in a new post on his Early Warning blog that recent problems with the alternate engine highlight the fact that two engines can mean twice the problems and additional costs:
This issue underscores a logical flaw in the case for an alternate engine. Backers argue that having a second engine is insurance against a design flaw in the primary powerplant being built by Pratt & Whitney for the single-engine F-35 fighter. But that reasoning works both ways -- add a second engine to the mix, and you've doubled the potential for design issues, just like you've doubled the cost of developing engines by having to fund two design teams and two development programs. With several billion dollars remaining to be spent before the alternate engine joins the fleet, there is still time to rethink whether a second engine is really needed. The Pentagon says one engine is enough.
Full post is here.

Why 70% Doesn’t Even Come Close

Proponents of the unnecessary F136 alternative engine, including some U.S. Senators, like to say that the alternate engine is 70% complete and therefore worthy of continued funding.

But that figure, if it’s even accurate, applies just to the initial system development and demonstration (SDD) phase, a milestone met by Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine roughly five years ago. Traditionally, less than half the money needed to field a new engine is spent during SDD. As if the $600 million wasted annually on a delayed, duplicative engine isn’t bad enough, consider that a far larger sum of money ($4-5 billion according to Pentagon and other independent estimates) will still be required to bring the alternate engine to production, costs which include creating duplicative test and production facilities, not to mention an entire supply chain.

Even the most optimistic of F136 scenarios ultimately means a competitive lot wouldn’t be awarded until at least 2013, with deliveries starting in 2015. How much of the taxpayers’ money will Congress continue to waste on an engine with no proven history or legacy of success and a design started from a blank sheet of paper? The F135 engine was built on the proven legacy of the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine, powering the U.S. Air Force F-22 fleet. The F119 is the most successful military fighter engine ever fielded and has accumulated 125,000 operational flight hours. That is the pedigree of the F135. The F136 alternate engine has no pedigree, and introducing a new, unproven backup engine just adds extra costs with no benefit to reliability. In fact, it increases risk.

Supporters of the backup engine have stood by the F136 on the very issue of competition despite numerous reports indicating that competition offers no guaranteed cost savings but rather will cause additional expense. How many additional billions of dollars must be spent between now and the time the F136 is even ready to compete? While alternate engine proponents--- through smoke and mirror messaging--- would like us to believe that the money already invested in the backup engine represents 70% of what is needed to make the alternate engine a reality, the truth is that their “70% complete” statement is both a misrepresentation of facts and misleading. The alternate engine is not 70% complete. There is still a very long and expensive development and test road ahead for the alternate engine, and it is littered with challenges which the program must overcome. Pratt & Whitney has been travelling that road for the past eight years. And with more than 12,800 hours, the F135 engine is in production and is the only engine powering the F-35 flight test program, successful flight after successful flight.

President Obama, Secretary Gates and many members of Congress have already rightfully concluded that the “new math” just doesn’t add up.

-- Eagleblogger

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Engines = Fewer F-35s?

Those of us just young enough to remember our childhood will recall the cartoon character Wimpy from Popeye who promised, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Even in our formative years, this ruse was a clarion call to be wary of deals that seem to good to be true.

Surely the same can be said for the increasingly desperate attempts by alternative engine proponents to mask the true costs of this still nascent program, not just now, but in the so-called “out years” as well. But don’t take our word for it.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a consistently vocal critic of the alternative engine sent a letter on October 14 to House Defense Appropriations Chairman John Murtha stating, “This program is unnecessary and could disrupt the overall JSF program by diverting resources away from efforts needed for the continuation of the program. If the final bill presented to the President would seriously disrupt the JSF program, I would recommend that he veto the bill.” Strong words indeed from a man who has served two presidents of opposing parties in the role of defense secretary, especially given the vital needs driven by two ongoing wars in Southwest Asia and emerging threats elsewhere in the world.

According to Congressional Budget Office testimony to the House Budget Committee that same day, the Pentagon will need non-war spending to average six percent more than the amount sought for FY10 over the next 18 years to fulfill the current administration’s plans. Yet, real growth in military and civilian pay and benefits, combined with projected increases in operations and maintenance costs exacerbated by the current high operations tempo, will consume roughly two-thirds of the DOD budget. House Budget Chairman John Spratt said these fixed costs could “squeeze out” funding for R&D and procurement, both vital to military equipment recapitalization. Steve Daggett from the Congressional Research Service testified that acquisition accounts could decrease from 35 percent of the FY10 budget to just 24 percent in FY20.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell amplified Secretary Gates’ sentiment, also from October 14. “Let me take this opportunity to note that even if the Congress provides an appropriation in one year, and it doesn't potentially impact additional airframes, a one-year allocation doesn't deal with how we look at a potential second engine program,” he said. “We look at this over at least a five-year time span, and we need to have a better sense of the funding stream over the life of that program.”

Therefore, every dollar counts, arguably even more as the years pass. A proposed House-Senate compromise F136 funding line of $560 million in FY10 to pay for the extra engine simply cannot be expected in future budget cycles. The figures from the recent CBO testimony make that abundantly clear. Alternate engine proponents make much of the money already spent for this engine as a rationale for continuing it. Let’s be clear, to field the alternate engine, by the government’s own figures, will cost an additional $4-$5 billion. The fallacy of the sunk cost is one of the most common decision traps. Funding this engine this year, an engine our warfighters say they don’t need and don’t want, and that is years behind the primary engine that the President and Secretary of Defense say works and that they are pleased with, is truly throwing good money after bad.

Ironically, this unfunded mandate for an extra engine could come at the expense of total F-35 airframes, the worst possible outcome for our armed forces. Wasteful duplicity is bad enough. But to do so in a way that is unsustainable and may actually result in fewer F-35 aircraft, thereby driving up the unit cost of each with no increase in capability, is a lose-lose proposition that is simply irresponsible. Sadly, unlike our two-dimensional friend Wimpy, it’s no joke.

-- Eagleblogger

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Big Picture: Why One Less Engine Will Better Power Our Nation

 “At this point, where we're trying to count every dollar and where a dollar added to one program takes away from another program that we think is more important, we feel strongly about the fact that there is not a need for a second engine.”

      Those words, spoken by Defense Secretary Robert Gates on August 31, 2009 remind us all that ultimately, the debate about whether to fund an alternate engine for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is about something far bigger.

      Sure, Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine has achieved more than 12,000 test hours, and a rock-solid pedigree from the most successful fighter engine ever fielded, the Pratt & Whitney F119 which powers our nation’s F-22 fleet. But, the reason this debate genuinely matters transcends the admittedly arcane world of thrust and fuel burn.

      Simply put, building a second engine brazenly defies logic and fiscal prudence. Government and independent sources project fielding a second engine will waste at least $4-5 billion. That doesn’t account for the additional billions required for redundant production lines and maintenance support. There remains absolutely no justification for exacerbating a federal budget crisis caused by the most severe recession in nearly a century in order to fund an alternate engine that is years behind in development, duplicative and unwanted by the warfighter and two consecutive administrations representing different political parties.

      Some industry insiders might recall the so-called Great Engine War as precedent for sourcing a second F-35 propulsion system. Whether that earlier endeavor really generated the savings claimed by its supporters remains open to debate. Regardless, one can point to countless procedural and technological developments in the intervening quarter century. At least four of them – acquisition reform, industrial base evolution, improved contractor practices and exponential gains in flight safety – render useless a blunt, expensive and time-consuming alternative engine distraction.

      Finally, there is everything else that has little to do with the future of airborne propulsion. A burgeoning federal debt, the daunting task of health care reform, emerging threats abroad and two current wars are just some of the most severe domestic and international challenges that draw on this nation’s intellectual and financial capital, which are finite. Why waste precious billions in resources on an alternate engine when they could be better spent at home and on our warfighters deployed overseas?

      Therefore, we continue to stand by Secretary Gates, President Obama and countless other leaders who have called for a single engine to power a single aircraft type. It’s the right thing to do, not only for the U.S. taxpayer, but for our men and women in uniform. 

       -- Eagleblogger

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hill: Gates warns he will ask Obama to veto Defense bill over chopper, JSF

The Hill newspaper reports today that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote to top appropriators that he will recommend a veto of the 2010 defense spending bill if it includes funding for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

“The conference bill should not provide funding for weapons that are not working or are no longer needed,” Gates told the lawmakers.

The House included $485 million for the VH-71 presidential helicopter and $560 million for the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine, which is built by General Electric and Rolls-Royce. That engine is in direct competition with the primary engine built by Pratt & Whitney.

Gates recently stressed that fully funding the alternate engine will cost billions more over several years and that the engine currently in development is behind the primary engine by about three years.

Gate's letter follows comments yesterday by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell when asked about the issue:

But let me take this opportunity to note that even if the Congress provides an appropriation in one year, and it doesn't potentially impact additional airframes, a one-year allocation doesn't deal with how we look at this program, at a potential second engine program.

We look at this over at least a five-year time span, and we need to have a better sense of the funding stream over the life of that program. And so even if they are able to devise a way to fund it one year without it adversely impacting airframes in that particular year, we still need a better understanding of the long-term impact of a second engine on the budgeting process...
Previously, Bloomberg news reported that Undersecretary for Acquisition Ashton Carter noted that “The department has looked at and analyzed the potential benefits of a second engine of the Joint Strike Fighter for years...The crux of the analysis is that the additional upfront costs of a second engine are very clear and very real and the possible savings associated with a hypothesized competition in the future are much harder to estimate.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Taxpayers for Common Sense: "Don't Throw Good Money After Bad"

Ryan Alexander, President of public interest watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense, writes in today's Register Citizen that Congress shouldn't "throw good money after bad" by funding an alternate engine.
"But a number of studies commissioned from various agencies on whether or not a second F-35 engine program would save money found that cost savings would be negligible at best. Potential savings were greatly reduced when the high price of maintaining two separate production lines, supply chains and management teams was factored in. Plus, any cost savings would take at least a decade to realize because the second engine is so far behind developmentally.

Some proponents claim other potential benefits to a second engine, including industrial base sustainment, contracting accountability and convenience for our international partners. In a perfect world, perhaps these issues would be more important than cost. But fighting two wars in a desolate economic environment does not afford us the luxury of spending billions to address them all. And the termination of one contract, no matter how large, won’t cripple our industrial base: A $636 billion defense budget should provide plenty of projects for defense contractors in the foreseeable future."
The full column is here...

Myrtle Beach Sun News: Quit wasting money on unwanted engine

Robert Burton writes in the Myrtle Beach Sun News

" At a time when our country is facing daunting challenges to reform health care, grow jobs in a recovering economy, and recapitalize an exhausted military, we must work now more than ever to ensure our government isn't wasting a single tax dollar.

A case in point is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the military's next-generation fighter jet that one day will be deployed in South Carolina at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.

The Department of Defense authorized Pratt and Whitney to develop and field the new engine for the fighter. Congress jumped in and meddled in the matter, earmarking millions for a second engine that the Department of Defense doesn't want and didn't ask for. Yes, that's right, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has been spending $500 million a year for the past four years on a jet engine that is far behind the other engine in development and likely won't ever be used in the Joint Strike Fighter. If the funding continues in the next few years, another $5.2 billion will be wasted."

The full column is here...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One F-35 Engine: Right Now and for All the Right Reasons

“An opportunity to truly reform the way we do business.”

That’s what Defense Secretary Robert Gates said back on April 6 when he unveiled his budget recommendations and suggested sweeping changes to a number of acquisition programs. And one month later, President Obama suggested the same strategy of saving money by eliminating unnecessary defense programs that do nothing to keep us safe. Since then, both President Obama and Secretary Gates on multiple occasions have repeated their belief that there is no business case for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, and that continuing to fund it takes precious scarce resources away from initiatives that actually keep us safer.

Though Congress is still wrangling with some of the paths Gates charted in his briefing, the recommendations shook the foundations of many Department of Defense programs and signaled a sea change in how the department does business. The Secretary has made it clear that ending the alternate engine program for the F-35 fits hand-in-glove with his new vision.

Some of the other defense programs at risk of cancellation could lay some claim towards meeting some national strategic or defense goals not currently being met. However, the alternate engine is the only one that simply repeats an existing capability which has already been proven by the Pratt & Whitney F135, while the alternate engine lags years behind in development.

The bottom line remains absolutely clear: the F135 engine performs the task as assigned, continues to cost less and less based on Pratt & Whitney’s proven cost reduction on the F119 engine powering the F-22, supports thousands of U.S. jobs as opposed to sending many of them overseas, has more than 12,000 test hours under its belt, and is derived from the proven F119 engine that has flown more than 125,000 operational hours on the F-22.

By comparison, the alternate engine offers a brand new engine design still facing years of challenging testing ahead and billions in development costs still to be funded. The alternate engine is not based on a proven engine, so there is no significant development, test or experience on the design. Putting an unproven engine on a single-engine fighter in high rate production is extremely risky. An alternate engine also adds complexity by requiring duplicate maintenance lines and procedures. Not only does this duplication impact military readiness, it will cost taxpayers billion of dollars. An alternate engine won’t lower costs because the government pays the costs to develop both engines. Taxpayers will also pay the costs for two sets of parts, two production and maintenance lines, and additional personnel and training.

Single sourcing engines on major airframes has been the norm for the past two decades. There is no alternate engine for the F-22, the F/A-18 or the Black Hawk military helicopter. (The F/A-18 and Black Hawk engines are made by GE.) GE is the sole-source provider of the almost 10,000 T700 engines both fielded and on order, powering nearly 5,000 current and future Blackhawks and Apache helicopters.

Moreover, under the current economic pressure, the F-35 Joint Program Office estimates that the $4-5 billion wasted on an alternative engine could put 50-80 F-35 aircraft at risk unnecessarily, aircraft that the military needs to ensure our security and national defense.

It’s no wonder that the opposition to the alternate engine has been uniform for years across two administrations – the military services oppose it, the DoD opposes it, and two consecutive presidents of the United States have opposed it.

Give us your take on this – with a massive reorganization of defense programs underway and real strategic programs battling for every dollar, does it make sense to waste billions on an unneeded alternate engine?

-- Eagleblogger

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Middlesex Chamber of Commerce President says Engineering A Big Win For Pratt And State

Middlesex Chamber of Commerce President writes that securing sole-source position on F135 would mean a generation of well-paying jobs for CT.

It would also save billions of dollars for U.S. taxpayers.

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have made it clear they believe it is in the country's best interest for Pratt's F135 engine alone to power the F-35 — the aircraft that will soon become the fifth-generation fighter aircraft of choice not only for the United States, but for friendly countries around the world. The president and the secretary of defense have said if we build a second engine for the F-35, it will cost taxpayers an additional $4 billion to $6 billion. On the other side of the field is a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Rolls Royce, who want the government to continue funding an alternate engine.

So the president has made it clear he wants Pratt in the game. What we need now is for Team Connecticut to put recent losses behind us and focus on the next big contest. Let's get a win. This is a huge opportunity with a genuine chance of success. Securing Pratt's sole-source position on the F-35 would mean an entire generation of well-paying aerospace jobs at Pratt's Middletown plant.

Sen. Joe Lieberman certainly knows that and appears to be ready. During a recent visit to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, the senator said, "This is an enormously important contract. If we wind up being the sole manufacturer, it will result in an enormous amount of work for 25 years and maybe more." Sen. Lieberman added, "I'll do everything I can to assure the sole manufacturer of the engine for the JSF [F-35] will be at Pratt & Whitney right here in Middletown."

We are all aware that as a high-cost, high-wage state, we are in a battle to keep well-paying manufacturing jobs. However, against these odds, Connecticut remains the home of innovation and productivity. Even facing an often hostile business climate, UTC and Pratt continue to succeed — Pratt's manufacturing facility here in Middletown is a prime example. Few would believe that this much manufacturing would not only survive but thrive in this high-cost territory. But there it is, and there Pratt is, poised to again be on the leading edge of aerospace history.

We're very much in the game, Connecticut. We're on the verge of a game-winning score. Our pride and our reputation as a winner are at stake. We've got a great team. The clock is ticking.

The full column is here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fixed Price Claim: Another Alternate Engine Misfire

The manufacturers of the F136 alternate engine continue to manipulate the debate over continued funding of their back-up engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. Three weeks ago, the GE/Rolls team announced they had provided the Defense Department with an unsolicited “fixed price proposal”. Last week Colin Clark pointed out in his DoD Buzz blog that GE’s proposal was little more than a pledge to keep costs under control for a program – the alternate engine – that is so immature that such a promise is all but meaningless.

And today, GE/Rolls have once again announced that they are offering the government an unsolicited firm fixed price proposal. So now they are offering two firm fixed price proposals complete with the PR extravaganza that goes with such an announcement all in one month? That seems strange. GE may argue that their first offering was a “concept” and that this offering is an actual “proposal.” Why didn’t they just offer the proposal to begin with? Whatever semantics you use in naming both of these offers, it’s important to remember that both have been unsolicited by the government because the Joint Program Office has been clear that a FFP is not what they want at this stage of the program.

As GE/Rolls-Royce touts this latest “offer” as big news, they ignore an inconvenient fact – Pratt & Whitney offered the same fixed price option to the Joint Program Office several months ago, and the government decided to stay with their current acquisition strategy, which Pratt & Whitney has respected and complied with. Respecting the JPO’s wish to remain with the cost plus acquisition strategy, back on Sept. 15 – two weeks before today’s “big” announcement – Pratt & Whitney presented a proposal to the DoD that detailed significant progress in reducing costs for the matured F135 engine. The company released information on their Low Rate Initial Production Lot 4 contract proposal, which offers double digit percentage cost savings over the previous contract for Lot 3, reflects aggressive efforts to reduce costs and provides the Joint Program Office specific protections against cost growth and incentives for even further cost reduction.

And, as has already been reported for several weeks, Pratt & Whitney stands ready to offer a real fixed price contract for F135 engine production if the JPO requests one, which they have not.

The differences between how this issue has been handled by the manufacturers of the two engines speak volumes about the programs. The F135 is established and mature, with production engines set for delivery later this year after more than 12,000 hours of testing. It is also based on the proven and highly successful F119 engine powering the F-22 aircraft, meaning testing and operational performance on that fielded engine has pushed the F135 engine even further along its path to maturity. Pratt & Whitney achieved a 30% cost reduction in the F119 program (and did so without a back-up engine program in place), and because of this experience with fifth generation engine production, Pratt & Whitney can pinpoint specific savings for the government that come along with the efficiencies accompanying later stages of production. Pratt & Whitney believes similar cost savings can be achieved on the F135 engine and is working towards this goal, realizing additional cost savings with every day, week and month that passes.

The F136 alternate engine, on the other hand, is immature and unproven. It has been reported that nine months into SDD testing it has accomplished fewer than 50 test hours and has already experienced numerous challenges resulting in both test engines being taken offline, putting the program behind schedule. By comparison, P&W’s F135 had four engines running, both CTOL and STOVL configurations, and had accumulated 695 hours nine months into SDD testing. The alternate engine is not based on a legacy production design, putting it even further behind the learning curve in stark contrast to the proven F135.

As tempting as it is to see today’s announcement of an unsolicited firm fixed price proposal for the F136 engine as big news, it is important to have the perspective and context of the overall program. How can a fixed price be offered on an engine that lacks final specs or a production contract?

As I mentioned in a previous post, GE claims they have already spent 70% of the $2.4B allocated to develop their engine, yet they have only accumulated 50 hours of test with no engines currently running. In comparison the F135 Program had more than 6,500 hours and 9 engines in the test program at the same funding point.

So you have two engine programs; one has spelled out the specific cost management of engines with more than 12,000 hours of testing and in production. The other tries to make news with an announcement on a firm fixed price proposal when they don’t even have any engines running at test. The doublespeak falls flat when it is revealed the proposal is for an engine that is not running and facing daunting schedule, performance and cost risks.

-- Eagleblogger

Friday, September 25, 2009

White House Commends the Senate for Not Including Alternate Engine Funding

The White House issued its Statement of Administration Policy this morning on the Senate's Defense Appropriations bill. The statement commends the Senate for not including funding for the alternate engine, which could result in a veto of the entire bill.

The Administration commends the Committee for its support for the termination of programs that are no longer needed or are not performing as intended. The Administration appreciates that the Committee does not include unrequested funding for three such programs that could result in a veto – unrequested advance procurement funding for the F-22 fighter aircraft, the continued development of the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine, and additional funding for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Program. The Congress is urged to oppose funding these programs during floor action and in conference.

As President Obama said when he presented his budget in May: "In addition, we're going to save money by eliminating unnecessary defense programs that do nothing to keep us safe - but rather prevent us from spending money on what does keep us safe. One example is a $465 million program to build an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Defense Department is already pleased with the engine it has. The engine it has works. The Pentagon does not want - and does not plan to use - the alternative version."

The full Statement of Administration Policy is here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Engine Incident Will Not Hamper F135 Program

The news that an F135 engine experienced an incident that caused damage during testing recently has prompted some questions about exactly what it means to the program.

The good news is that initial information suggests it will not negatively affect engine tests or current flight test schedules.

The first point to make is that Pratt & Whitney is conducting a thorough investigation into the incident, working closely with the Joint Program Office to figure out exactly what caused the incident.

It is also important to note that this is exactly the type of thing you expect and want to find during the advanced stage of testing that the F135 engine is undergoing at this point so it does not become an operational concern. Because the program is so mature – more than 12,500 hours of ground and flight testing – the engine is being put through extremely rigorous testing, pushing the engine much harder than during earlier testing phases. The engine which experienced the incident had the equivalent of eight years of use on it, and the test being performed was in conditions simulating extended supersonic flight at high altitude.

As we have mentioned before, the F135 engine is based on the F119, which is powering the F-22 aircraft, and has more than 100,000 successful operational flight hours. Because the F135 is derived from such a proven engine, we have been able to retire more than 90 percent of the risk associated with the engine. In contrast, an entirely new design, such as the alternate engine, is likely to have a high rate of incidents; much higher than the F135 program has seen. Defense Secretary Robert Gates himself expressed this opinion in relation to the alternate engine. In fact, when you look at the F135 program as a whole, there have been relatively few problems over the more than eight years of development and testing of the engine.

One reason we can say the recent incident is not likely to affect the program schedule or overall flying operations is because the testing was on the second generation of the engine rather than the first. Again, this is a benefit of the maturity of the F135 program. The hardware on the first generation of the engine has already been fully tested and qualified, and is right now safely meeting program schedule requirements. These are the engines being used on the current flight test program.

There’s an important technical point to make about the incident. It was contained in the fan and high compressor sections of the engine and did not affect the turbine section, which had been redesigned after previous testing revealed an issue.
Testing is done for a reason – to find issues before the engine is put into production and ensure the highest possible operational reliability. No rational person would argue that it should be any different.

So how does this affect the alternate engine debate? It has been reported that the F136 has suffered three test failures, and has fewer than 50 hours of SDD test time, since commencing SDD testing in January.

By comparison, P&W’s F135 had four engines running, both CTOL and STOVL configurations, and had accumulated 695 hours nine months into SDD testing. It should also be noted that GE claims they have already spent 70% of the $2.4B allocated to develop their engine, yet they have only accumulated 50 hours of test with no engines currently running. In comparison the F135 Program had more than 6,500 hours and 9 engines in the test program at the same funding point.

This isn’t to say that the competition makes bad engines. To the contrary, they make excellent products. The fact is, as even GE freely admits on the record, that all high performance jet engines will experience issues in the development phase. The F135, however, since it was derived from the proven F119, would be expected to have fewer problems in development and history has proved that. That is one of the reasons it was chosen initially. And, that has proven to have been what has happened. Having an alternate engine doesn’t provide insurance against these issues, it just means the there will be additional risks and issues associated with that second engine. And, that drives up costs and puts the schedule at risk – risks we can’t afford now.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When is a fixed price offer really a fixed price offer?

Colin Clark at DoD Buzz has some interesting news on the recent "firm fixed price offer" touted in the media by alternate engine proponents.

We spoke with a source over the weekend who read us some emails which were apparently from Pentagon officials claiming that General Electric and Rolls Royce, makers of the F136, had not actually made the government a fixed price offer...

So I sent the Pentagon folks a series of questions, trying to get a firm fixed handle on the question. It turns out GE offered “what they called an F136 Fixed Price Concept,” one that the Pentagon folks said they believed “was presented in good faith.” The concept “included Not to Exceed values for Low Rate Initial Production Lot 5 (which equates to the 2011 timeframe),” according to the air warfare acquisition people.

So what has to happen for any of this to mean anything, beyond being clever maneuvers by powerful companies eager to convince lawmakers to give them money. GE/RR would have to offer — tah dah! — a proposal. Why, you ask? The air warfare folks said “a proposal would provide much more detail in order to properly analyze its value and ability to deliver to the specific requirements.”

Full post is here.

United Technologies foresees 30% cost drop for F-35 fighter engine

WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) expects to pare costs as much as 30 percent over time on the engine it is building for the world's biggest fighter aircraft program, the board chairman told Reuters Wednesday.

The cost of the F135 engine being built by the company's Pratt & Whitney unit is at the heart of a battle with rival engine team General Electric Co (GE.N) and Rolls Royce (RR.L).

At stake is a potential $100 billion market to power Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's costliest arms-buying program. The Obama administration is seeking to terminate the GE-Rolls Royce competitor engine on the ground that it is superfluous and would not yield any cost savings.

Full story here.

Examiner Op-Ed: Congressional boondoggle would cost American taxpayers billions

Keith Phillips writes in today's San Francisco Examiner:

Because of this, Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have made overhaul of defense procurement a priority. An example of their efforts is the debate about engines for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The military is in the process of replacing its aging fleet of fighters with the F-35s. A Pratt & Whitney engine will power this plane. Despite objections from military officials, an alternate engine is also being developed. There’s no need for this alternate engine and Congress should not put it in the budget, as it has done previously via earmarks.

This alternate engine development is a massive $6 billion program that’s unnecessary and wasteful. That’s why Obama cut it from his budget, saying, “They do not want — and do not plan to use — the alternate version. That’s why the Pentagon stopped requesting this funding two years ago. Yet, it’s still being funded.”

Resources are limited. American taxpayers work hard for every dollar and the government must be prepared to justify how every dollar is spent.

If the alternate engine program continues, it will mean $6 billion thrown away. That means fewer airplanes, fewer training hours for our troops and less medical care for returning veterans.

Not only is the cost extraordinary for the unwanted engines, it could make the F-35 less reliable. These complex machines need thousands of spare parts. A second engine would likely double the number of parts, creating greater complexity and additional burdens on ground crews. These increased burdens will come without saving money or improving performance.

Full column is here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Early results show little or no impact on cost and schedule

Reuters reports on preliminary findings that show engine incident will have little or no impact on cost and schedule.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A worn-down component in the forward section of United Technologies Corp's F135 engine for the F-35 fighter jet may have caused the tip of a fan blade to break off during testing, the company said on Friday.

A spokesman for Pratt & Whitney, the United Technologies unit doing the work, said the modifications will be minor and would result in little to no disruption in cost or schedule.

The company said earlier this week that the engine, which it builds for the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet, was damaged during a qualification test last week.

The engine had been tested for five hours at "supersonic conditions" and endured the equivalent of 8 years of use, a Pratt program expert told reporters Friday.

Full story is here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pentagon Not Wavering on Alternate Engine Cancellation

At a press briefing yesterday, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell poured cold water on the notion that recent problems with a test F135 engine might cause the DoD to rethink its position on the alternate engine.

Excerpts below and a full transcript here.

DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon
September 15, 2009

Q (Off mike.) The second engine, this long-running saga; you know, there was a failure Friday of the Pratt engine in durability testing.

Does that raise cautions within the Pentagon here that their approach to stressing just a single engine might not be the prudent approach while this investigation is going on?

MR. MORRELL: No. Not at all.

Q Why not?

MR. MORRELL: There is -- there is no wavering among anybody in a decision-making position here at the Pentagon about the preference to proceed with a single engine rather than an alternate engine as well. Listen, the mishap that took place, I guess over the weekend, involving the F-135 is unfortunate, but not expected. We're in the test phase, development phase of these engines, and those things happen.

Q So where's the leverage on Pratt Whitney (sic) if they know they're the single engine maker? And -- you can read them the riot act, but if they know they're the monopoly, what's their incentive to get their act together on cost and schedule? I --

MR. MORRELL: Well, listen. You know, reputations are at stake here, Tony. I mean, there are -- there are other contracts. There are other programs in the future, no doubt, that they'd like to be a part of...I think all the talk of a second engine, an alternate engine, is wasted energy. The second engine is not going to fix the problems with the first engine. I mean, buying two of everything is not going to be the solution to all of our problems and development programs across this department.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Duplicate defense spending a big waste

Associated Industries of Florida CEO Barney Bishop writes in today's Florida Sun Sentinel that:

With a national deficit of $1.6 trillion - three times higher than last year - something has to give. If we are to get out of this, our government needs to spend smarter and cut where cuts can be made
Bishop goes on to highlight the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter as a place where cuts can be made. Bishop explains:

While the Joint Strike Fighter has experienced proven success with its current engine, and the alternate engine has been called "unnecessary" by the Department of Defense and several independent studies, funding for this project persists. In fact, Congress has already spent more than $1.6 billion on this program, and an additional $5 billion will be needed over the next several years to have a tangible, working alternate engine. President Obama has threatened a veto if the final defense authorization bill includes funding for the alternate engine.
Full column is here.

JSF Program Deputy Director "Not Losing Sleep" Over Engine Incident

An update since our last post:

According to a report from Reuters, Deputy Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Lightning II Program Office Major General C.D. Moore told reporters a problem with the F135 engine should not delay a planned flight test schedule.

"Moore said he was optimistic about resolving the issue because an earlier version of the engine had already passed the certification testing. 'I'm not losing sleep over it,' he told Reuters after the news conference" according to the story.

Moore also said that he was confident that the program can meet its cost and schedule requirements.

He said he was optimistic about resolving the issue because an earlier version of the engine had already passed the certification testing.

Full story here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

F135 testing to remain on track

During a recent qualification test on an F135 CTOL engine, an incident occurred resulting in damage to the forward section of the engine. The damage is limited to the fan and high compressor sections of the engine. A redesigned turbine section of the F135 engine installed on this engine was unaffected and not involved.

Reuters reports on the story here.

Pratt & Whitney is currently conducting a thorough review and inspection of the engine to determine the root cause of the damage and minimize impact to ongoing engine testing.. According to Graham Warwick of Aviation Week, primary contractor Lockheed Martin has confirmed that the incident will cause no delay to flight testing.

Second generation hardware designs were being evaluated in this test and are not installed in the F135 engines currently powering the flight test program. As Reuters reports, at the time of the incident, the engine had run through 2455 cycles, an amount equal to eight years of operation. The first generation hardware installed on existing flight test engines has already completed this testing and continues to perform well. The affected engine was a system, design and demonstration engine, and identifying issues is not unusual and is part of the process of retiring risk before the engine becomes operational.

These types of incidents occur on all engine programs at this stage of development. Because the F135 is derived from the proven F119, we have had relatively few incidents. In more than 12,000 hours of ground and flight testing we have already retired more than 90 percent of the risk associated with the F135.

Even for a high quality engine manufacturer like GE, an entirely new engine like the alternate engine is likely to experience similar challenges. This has already occurred with at least a couple of incidents on the GE alternate engine. As Reuters notes, Secretary Gates has said there is “there's no reason to believe that that prototype engine, or that that new engine would not encounter the same kinds of challenges and issues that other developmental engines on this aircraft as well as others have encountered in the past.”

Our focus remains on continuing to support a successful flight test program, continuing to work aggressively towards our cost goals, and continuing to retire the remaining risk in our system, design and demonstration engines.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Project On Government Oversight offers a reality check on competition

POGO (Project On Government Oversight) offers a dose of reality on the requirements of the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act (WSARA), which alternate engine proponents have been trying to use to make their case for continued funding.

While the WSARA calls for competition on major defense acquisition programs in most cases, there are some important exceptions---which alternate engine proponents have ignored. As POGO writes:
Well, not exactly.
The law acknowledges that in some cases, competitive prototyping should be waived
(1) when the cost of producing competitive prototypes exceeds the expected life-cycle benefits, or
(2) when not issuing a waiver would undermine the ability of the Department of Defense to meet critical national security needs.
They go on to explain:
(P)roponents of the alternate engine may question the propriety of these waivers, the terms under which the White House has opposed the funding for an alternate engine are as follows: "Expenditures on a second engine are unnecessary and impede the progress of the overall JSF program" (ding ding, undermining critical national security needs). The Air Force has said they would have to cut 53 F-35s to continue funding the second engine, and in some cases it appears that the alternative engine would draw its funding from the program's management reserve, which could directly undermine the development of the program."

But more importantly, no one has come out to definitively say that the competition would result in overall cost savings. (emphasis added)
And, POGO notes, the argument has not been persuasive with two of WSARA's most ardent supporters.
To the degree to which competitive prototyping is a measure to result in savings for taxpayers, the case for an alternate engine has not been made. Moreover, a chief author of the Weapons Acquisition Reform Act, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Defense Secretary Gates remain strong opponents of an alternative engine.
The full post is here and is worth a read.

Senate appropriators decide against cash for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine

The Hill newspaper's Roxana Tiron writes about Senate appropriators deciding not to include funding for the alternate engine.

Senate defense appropriators on Wednesday decided not to add funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said that he decided against funding the engine made by General Electric and Rolls-Royce because he was concerned about the floor vote on the entire 2010 defense appropriations bill.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto the defense bill if funding for the second engine — which it did not request — is seen to jeopardize the entire F-35 program.

Read the full article here

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gates Got It Right: F-35 Extra Engine Unneeded

Defense analyst Loren Thompson writes today on the Early Warning Blog that Secretary of Defense Gates got it right: an extra engine for the F-35 is unneeded.

Let's set aside the fact that the money for the second engine is being taken out of other F-35 accounts in a manner detrimental to the overall effort, and just look at the merits of the alternate-engine concept. There has only been one major effort to buy competing engines for military aircraft -- which also pitted a winning Pratt engine against an alternate GE engine -- and in that rivalry, the GE product never managed to match the safety record of the Pratt offering. Proponents of repeating that process point to savings, but those materialized only after the government had paid all the costs for designing, developing and producing the rival engine. The government has to spend more money to get to the point where competition generates savings, because it is the only customer for either engine so it has to foot the whole bill for both powerplants.
The full post is here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Alternative F-35 engine is wasteful

An opinion piece in the Witchita Eagle urges federal officials to avoid wasteful spending and protect military readiness by opposing funding for the F-35 alternative engine.

Mike Pompeo writes....At a time when the federal deficit is projected to soar to nearly $1.6 trillion this year, we need to look for every opportunity to cut wasteful spending…. The military needs Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter but does not need to waste money on an alternate engine for this warbird, as some in Congress seek to do. The current engine, the F135, is in production and is exceeding expectations.

Read the full opinion piece

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Secretary Gates on Bloomberg TV

powered by
COOK: All right. Let me ask you about a couple other controversial programs, again, programs that members of Congress keep pushing for, you're pushing against. An alternative engine for this plane, does it make sense to build a second engine for this plane? You say no.

GATES: Well, we've done the business case, we've looked at it a number of times. It would be an additional cost of several billion dollars. It would start three to four years behind in terms of where we are with the F- 135 engine and there's no reason to believe that that prototype engine, or that that new engine would not encounter the same kinds of challenges and issues that other developmental engines on this aircraft as well as others have encountered in the past. At this point, based on the business case, we don't think it's necessary.

Gates renews White House veto threat over engine

Associated Press reporter Anne Gearan writes about Gates' strongly worded message that there is no need for two engine makers during his visit to the F35 manufacturing plant yesterday....The Obama administration renewed a threat Monday to veto a $680 billion defense spending bill if it includes money for two separate engines for the next-generation jet fighter, a luxury the Pentagon says it cannot afford.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, touring the Lockheed Martin Corp. plant where the first of the $100 million planes are being assembled, said there is no need for two engine suppliers.
"We have looked at the business case a number of times," Gates said. "The general conclusion is that it would cost several billion dollars in addition," and cause headaches for production down the road.

In an era of defense penny-pinching, Gates said, "we feel strongly there is not a need for the second engine."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gates feels strongly - there is no need for the alternate engine

After touring the F-35 JSF manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Texas, Defense Secretary Gates made a clear case, again today, about why the alternate engine should not be funded.

During Q and A with reporters, Secretary Gates was asked about the Administration’s veto threat if funds for the alternate engine are included in the defense budget and he responded :

"We have looked at the business case a number of times in terms of an alternative engine to the F135. The general conclusion is that it would cost several billion dollars in addition, that it would just by the nature of things be three or four or more years behind the F135 engine, and there's no reason to believe that it would not encounter the same kinds of development challenges that other new engines have encountered along the way.

And so at this point we're trying to count every dollar and where a dollar from one program, added to one program, takes away from another program that we think is more important, we feel strongly about the fact that there is not a need for a second engine and the President's advisers, the Hill has been informed that the President's advisers would recommend a veto if that's in the bill. The final decision obviously is up to the President."

Gates later added that, "We talked about trade-offs in other programs with respect to the alternate engine a minute ago. Well, every dollar additional to the budget that we have to put into the F-35 is a dollar taken from something else that the troops may need. So it's as important to watch the costs here as it is on everything else."

Steve Trimble of The Dew Line also has a synopsis of the media briefing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Alternate Engine’s Jobs Argument Falls Flat

One of the common arguments made by proponents of the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is that it is good for the aerospace and defense industrial base. At first glance it seems to make sense – two engines means more jobs and businesses up and down the supply chain, right?

But what seems to be an obvious truth is actually a confusing misperception.

First, let’s talk about the importance of the aerospace industrial base overall. It’s hard to overstate how vital it is to the U.S. economy, especially in these trying times. As other industries have hemorrhaged jobs over the last nine months, aerospace and defense has held steady, with a total direct employment right around 650,000, just a small dip from the middle of last year. Estimates put the total number of jobs the industry is responsible for at 2 million, spread out among 30,000 companies in all 50 states. It’s the nation’s leading exporter, and totaled $97 billion last year. (All statistics from the Aerospace Industries Association.)

Clearly, this economic cornerstone is more important now than ever.

So what does this mean to the alternate engine discussion? The claim that the second engine will bolster the industrial base ignores the fact that the same number of engines will be bought – it’s just a question of who will build them. A second engine does not mean twice the engines.

Splitting the engine buy will also have direct negative impacts on each company involved in the program, from the smallest supplier to the systems integrators involved. Most companies in the supply chain would see a smaller piece of the overall pie than they would under a single engine provider. It trickles down – less work per supplier means reduced economies of scale and fewer opportunities for the government to save money due to size of the JSF program. A report by the Lexington Institute that delved into the alternate engine issue said that “split procurement and sustainment is intrinsically less efficient …” barring extraordinary circumstances. The report concluded that dividing the F-35 engine buy will make the program and companies involved less efficient, and pointed out that this is not the usual goal associated with strengthening the industrial base.

Curiously, some recent remarks by members of Congress questioned the importance of protecting the defense industrial base, saying that contract decisions should not take jobs and other factors into account. Luckily, that opinion is squarely in the minority. In fact, AIA just released a report pressing for industrial base impact to be a factor in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which is due to be released this fall.

There’s one more significant misperception about the alternate engine when it comes to the issue of supporting the U.S. industrial base. As much as 20 percent of the work on the alternate engine is going to occur in the United Kingdom. Talk about not helping the U.S. defense industrial base.

What do you think? Would splitting the engine buy hurt or help the aerospace industrial base? Weigh in with your views in the comment section.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

As Washington Debates, F135 Racks Up Successes

Those following the F-35 Lightning II alternate engine discussion in Washington D.C. know the last couple of weeks have been dynamic. But behind the scenes the F135 engine – the Joint Strike Fighter’s primary propulsion system – has achieved some significant milestones which underscore how far along Pratt & Whitney is in the development and test of the F135 engine.

The Pratt & Whitney F135 engine recently surpassed the 12,000 test hour mark as part of the system development and demonstration phase of the contract.

DoD has also awarded the company a low-rate initial production contract totaling $684 million that covers production, sustainment, spare parts and engineering support for the third lot of engines. The contract includes 10 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) engines and 11 short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) versions.

These important steps are leading up to the delivery of the first seven production engines later this year.

Additionally, Pratt & Whitney has completed a propulsion production and sustainment study for the Netherlands, one of eight international partners on the Joint Strike Fighter program.

So what does all this mean? As Congress wrangles with the question of continuing to fund an unneeded engine that the DoD – and President Obama himself – have publicly said they don’t want, the F135 continues to rack up many program successes.

The F-135 has logged more than 113 flights and more than 134 flight test hours. This engine is well along in overall development and demonstrates the maturity and reliability the military customers needs in order to get their critical missions done.

The F135 engine is built on the same core as the F119 engine, the only operational fifth generation fighter engine that powers the F-22 Raptor fighter.

The fact that the F135 engine development program is moving along at a steady clip and logging milestone after milestone shines a harsh light on the alternate engine program. Shoehorning an extra $439 million into the DoD’s fiscal 2010 budget for a program that is immature and unnecessary is simply a bad idea, especially in today’s economic climate.

What do you think Congress’ responsibility is in light of this situation? Is it prudent to continue funding an unneeded engine for almost a half a billion dollars each year when the primary engine is about to start deliveries? We welcome your comments below.

-- Eagleblogger

Monday, August 3, 2009

NYT: After the F22

The NYT editorializes this morning that the F22 shouldn't be the only weapons system to be cut from the defense budget:

The situation so far is better in the Senate, where financing for the helicopters and the alternate engine were eliminated in a first draft defense bill. But there is every expectation that there will be a fierce fight over these and other programs in the process of reconciling competing versions with the House.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made a compelling case for ending programs that significantly exceed their budgets or use limited tax dollars to buy more capability than the nation needs. Given the changed nature of warfare, the United States must invest in systems with “maximum versatility” and can no longer afford weapons that are “clearly out of control, performing poorly and excess to the military’s real requirements,” he said in a speech in Chicago.

Full editorial here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pratt & Whitney Statement on F135 Engine Development and Production Progress

EAST HARTFORD, Conn – July 30, 2009 – Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company, issued the following statement today on the progress of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine program:

“The F135 engine being developed by Pratt & Whitney has experienced some cost growth and production issues consistent with new engine programs at this stage of development and transition to production. We are working closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office in an aggressive cost reduction effort to address these issues and ensure the engine achieves its learned-out cost targets on schedule. Pratt & Whitney is entirely focused on executing the plans that have been established to ensure a successful program.

There are absolutely no product quality issues with fielded F135 engines, and the engines that have been delivered for flight testing have performed without issue. Pratt & Whitney is working to mature production processes to increase yield rates, as is typical with any new engine program at this stage of development. Pratt & Whitney is performing at 70 to 80 percent yield for some components and will improve as the production process is learned out. Many components are being manufactured at much better yields, having benefited from learning on the F119 engine program.

Pratt & Whitney is on a projected learning curve and the company is confident that we will deliver the results of a learned-out manufacturing process that will ultimately bring reduced costs and improved yield to the program.

Recently the F-35 Joint Program Office sponsored several independent reviews of Pratt & Whitney’s plans to reduce cost and ramp up manufacturing capability. The reviews concluded that:

· Pratt & Whitney has an excellent process control and certification program in place for the F135 engine

· The Supplier Management program at Pratt & Whitney is the best program reviewed to date

· The Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) program – Pratt & Whitney’s Quality Operating System – provides six sigma zero defects and is embedded in the corporate culture

With these recent findings, we are confident that we are on the right path to continue to deliver a successful product for the F-35 program and realize the benefits of a learned-out manufacturing process in the near future.

The F135 engine program remains on track to support overall F-35 development and transition to production. Pratt & Whitney is scheduled to deliver the first seven production F135 engines later this year. The F135 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) engine and short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) propulsion system continue to power the F-35 Lightning II flight test programs with 113 flights and more than 134 flight test hours.

The Pratt & Whitney F135 engine has surpassed 12,000 engine test hours as part of the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of the development program. This achievement, in addition to the 3,600 test hours accumulated during the F-35 concept demonstration program, puts F135 engine test hours at more than 15,600.”

# # #

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Navy "Strongly Endorses" Single Engine for JSF

Graham Warwick writes in Aviation Week today that the Navy "has strongly endorsed a single engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, citing lack of space on its aircraft carriers to support an alternate powerplant."

“I’m in the one engine camp,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, speaking July 28 at the rollout of the first Pratt & Whitney F135-powered F-35C carrier variant here. “On a carrier, space matters.”

The full story is here.

F135 Reaches 12,000 Test Hours and 133 Successful Flights

Today's release that the F135 has hit over 12,000 test hours and 133 successful flights marks another major milestone for our engine.  We are nearing the completion of the testing phase, instilling even more confidence in an engine derived from the F-22 fighter engine with more than 100,000 flight hours and an unprecedented safety record.

The alternate engine team, recently called "embattled" by Aviation Week, which noted "indications of growing slippages in the alternate engine schedule," has reported fewer than 50 hours of testing.

The F135 is the only engine powering the F-35 flight test program, and the gap between the readiness of the F135 and the F136 continues to grow.  "The F136 team acknowledged at the recent Paris air show that the date for the first flight-test engine has slid to early 2011 from 2010..." according to the same story in Aviation Week.

As Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said, when discussing the F135 during last week's Senate debate , "We've been at this for years now and it is a success."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

White House Issues Veto Threat Over Alternate Engine Funding in House Defense Appropriations Bill

The Obama Administration has issued a veto threat on the House Defense Appropriations bill that includes funding for the alternate engine.
Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) Alternate Engine. The Administration strongly objects to the addition of $130 million to produce, and $430 million to continue the development of, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) alternate engine, which was proposed for termination by the President. Expenditures on an alternate engine for the JSF are unnecessary and divert resources from the overall JSF program. The current engine is performing well, and the risks associated with a single engine provider are manageable. If the final bill presented to the President would seriously disrupt the F-35 program, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Read the full Statement of Administration Policy here.

Deficit Hawk Explains His Vote on the Alternate Engine

Influential fiscal conservative and Armed Services Committee member Senator Ben Nelson explains his vote to cancel funding for an alternate engine in today's McCook Daily Gazette, his hometown newspaper:
I voted with 58 other senators against an amendment funding an alternate engine for the military's new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Senators supporting the program--again from states where the alternate engine is under development--argued it would push competition. That makes sense sometimes...but not in this case.

They suggested paying for the alternate engine by taking money from Marine Corps' helicopters to be used in Afghanistan. They also proposed taking money from Air Force special operations C-130 aircraft used to transport military personnel and materials to Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.

Full story here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Senate eliminates funding for alternate engine

The Hill reports that following a 59-38 vote against an amendment to continue funding for an alternate engine, the Senate adopted Senator Joe Lieberman's amendment that "bars spending on an alternative engine until the Defense secretary certifies that such a program would reduce the fighter program’s costs, improve the planes’ readiness and not disrupt development or result in fewer fighters procured."

The full story is here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

F-22 not the only wasteful military spending

Former State Senator Len Teitelbaum, in an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun writes, “As a member of the military, a legislator and an American citizen, in a time when teachers are being laid off, veterans are being cheated out of healthcare, and families are struggling to get by, here's my question: Do we really need to spend another $5 billion on a backup engine no one wants?”

Read the whole article and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lieberman, McCain introduce Amendment to eliminate alternate engine earmark

Amy McCullough with the Marine Corps Times writes about the amendment that Senators Lieberman, McCain and others in the Senate have proposed to eliminate the funding for the JSF alternate engine. The Marine Corps, Sec. of Defense, and White House agree with Lieberman that the risk to prolonging the overall JSF program is too great.

Monday, July 20, 2009

War of Words Erupts Over F-35 Engines

Aviation Week journalist Guy Norris writes about the upcoming battles in the House and Senate over whether to fund the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. He also aptly discusses the time and cost considerations of developing two separate engines for the aircraft. Norris interviewed Warren Boley, Pratt & Whitney vice president for F135 programs, who discussed Pratt & Whitney’s successes with the F135 engine powering the F-35 Lightning II flight test program. Boley also discussed cost saving plans for the F135 engine program. "We know what the F-35 Joint Program Office needs, and we know we can get it because we did it on the F119."Read the whole article and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Administation reiterates its objections to the alternate engine today

Take a look at today’s Statement of Administration Policy … a strong reiteration of the administration’s objection to funding the alternate engine. The relevant paragraph reads:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program: The Administration strongly objects to the addition of $438.9 million for development of the alternative engine program. The Administration also objects to provisions of the bill that mandate an alternative engine program for the JSF. The current engine is performing well with more than 11,000 test hours. In addition, the risks associated with a single engine provider are manageable as evidenced by the performance of the F-22 and F/A-18E/F, Air Force and Navy programs supplied by a single engine provider. Expenditures on a second engine are unnecessary and impede the progress of the overall JSF program. The Air Force currently has several fleets that operate on a single-engine source. The Administration also objects to the limit on the obligation of overall JSF development funding to 90 percent of the amount authorized until the Secretary of Defense submits a written certification that sufficient funds have been obligated in FY 2010 for the alternative engine program. If the final bill presented to the President would seriously disrupt the F-35 program, the President’s senior advisors would recommend a veto.

The SAP mentions the current engine’s more than 11,000 test hours. This figure will soon reach 12,000 test hours – adding another 1,000 hours of demonstrated, proven performance and one more feather in the F135's cap.