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.