Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another notable first

As much of the aerospace community gathers in Singapore for the biennial air show there, Pratt & Whitney marked the occasion by announcing the delivery of the first F135 production engine for the F-35. This major milestone, following close on the heels of the first in flight engagement of the STOVL propulsion system, unequivocally demonstrates the continued maturation of the F135. A strong heritage from the F119 engine powering the F-22-powering, and more than 13,000 test hours have enabled this first delivery of the world’s most advanced fifth generation fighter engine, one that will serve U.S. and allied forces for decades to come.

Meanwhile closer to home, much of the news centers on President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The language urging the termination of the F136 alternative engine program is crystal clear, and represents the fifth consecutive attempt under administrations of both major parties to cancel the F136.

So what’s changed since FY ’07 when the request to cancel alternate engine funding was first made? In addition to the undisputed progress of the F135, as well as our nation’s clear and present economic crisis, the White House, in their budget proposal released last week said that the alternative engine “is no longer needed to prepare against the potential failure of the main JSF engine program…because development of the main engine is progressing well.” Moreover, “financial benefits, such as savings from competition, have been assessed to be small, if they exist at all, because of the high cost of developing, producing, and maintaining a second engine.”

Answering questions during a February 1 press conference, Defense Secretary Gates pledged to “strongly recommend that the president veto any legislation that sustains the unnecessary continuation” of the F136, along with an unrelated program. Simply put, he said, “The level of cost is such now that we have to take a final stand.”

Despite the challenges of developing a new fighter aircraft, Secretary Gates remains bullish on the F-35, stating “it is on track to become the backbone of U.S. air superiority for the next generation.” A single, proven F135 propulsion system is now playing its full part: benefitting the taxpayers with a proven pedigree, rigorous testing, decreasing cost, and now a smooth transition to production. Who says good news is hard to find?

-- Eagleblogger

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