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.