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

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