Thursday, May 27, 2010

Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union Supports Cancellation of Alternate Engine

In a letter to House members, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers offered its support for the Larson amendment to eliminate funding for the alternate engine:

“The Pingree Larson amendment addresses this issue by withholding funding for the alternative engine unless the Defense Department finds that the extra engine would reduce the costs of the F-35 program, improve the operational readiness of the program, and would not result in fewer aircraft being purchased. The IAM strongly supports…the Pingree Larson and asks that you vote for these amendments." click here for .pdf copy

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

AMVETS Opposes Alternate Engine

Congressman Murphy,

Over the last few years, both the Bush and Obama Administrations have sought to remove funding for the wasteful F35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine program. As a leader in veterans’ advocacy for more than 65 years, AMVETS supports this year’s latest efforts to kill funding for the alternate engine, diverting funds to directly support the brave men and women tasked with fighting on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The alternate engine for the Pentagon’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program is a perfect example of a program that wastes funding desperately needed by our military men and women serving in harm’s way. Billions have already been spent on a wasteful extra engine, even though the current engine is already in production and performing well.

Our nation’s top military minds have consistently voiced their opposition to the alternate engine, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and the service chiefs for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, the services set to receive the Joint Strike Fighter.

Sadly, even though the Pentagon insists it will never field the new engine, Congressional leaders have continued to approve funding for the program each year. Supporters say the alternate engine would save money, but independent studies commissioned by Congress clearly refute this assertion.

This money must be spent on the needs of our soldiers and veterans today—not five or more years down the road. Congress has earmarked more than one billion dollars on this project since President Bush first tried to cancel it, and taxpayers will foot the bill for another $2.9 billion just to complete development and testing on the extra engine; never mind production costs.

That same amount of money could pay the health care costs of every single Iraq and Afghanistan veteran this year. The $465 million spent last year could have been used for mine resistant vehicles and helicopters that are badly needed by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead was wasted on an engine our military leaders have repeatedly said they don’t want or need.

As a fellow veteran, AMVETS hopes you will join us in proudly supporting the amendment to divert much of the wasteful alternate engine funding to the National Guard & Reserve Equipment Account, which faces a $42.5 billion equipment shortage in 2010. It’s time we make a commitment to giving our brave American troops what they need today.


Raymond C. Kelley
AMVETS National Legislative Director

Letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the alternate engine

Dear Representative Larson:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. This program is one of the Defense Department's (DOD) most important, largest and costliest acquisition programs. The JSF budget request reflects DOD's careful, analytical judgment of the best way proceed with a program that is the backbone of future tactical aircraft inventory for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and international partners.

It is true that the DOD identified problems with this program in 2009. Therefore, earlier this year, we took aggressive action to restructure and manage the program. These actions included providing additional funding, replacing the program manager, withholding $614 million in contractor award fees and reducing the number of aircraft purchased in FY11 from 48 to 42. It is DOD's judgment that further reduction of the number of aircraft will increase cost, delay the program and negatively impact our international partners. DOD is confident that the JSF restructuring properly balances production rate with other relevant factors.

Further, I firmly believe that the interests of the taxpayers, our military, and the JSF program are best served by not pursuing an extra engine. Despite the continued opposition by the DOD under two Administrations, Congress has provided $1.3 billion in unrequested additional funding for continued development of this program. We have reached a critical point in this debate where spending more money on an extra engine simply makes no sense and diverts limited modernization funds from more pressing DOD priorities.

DOD's independent Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) estimates that an additional $2.9 billion would be required to take an alternate engine, the F136, to competitive procurement in FY17. While the $2.9 billion cost is real and certain, the benefits of a second engine are not. CAPE has concluded that a second engine might provide savings ifboth engine vendors respond to competitive pressures and drive prices lower and the second engine supplier matches the F135's vendor prices for the duration of the competition. Some international partners are almost certain to only buy the F136 engine made by the General Electric (GE) and Rolls Royce team, and the Navy has stated they will only buy one engine to avoid having to maintain two different engines aboard a ship. While DOD favors competition where possible, in this case there would not be a true competition between the engine vendors, with accompanying reductions in cost. Therefore, it is DOD's strong judgment that these real costs outweigh the theoretical benefit.

In addition, we believe the new GE proposal for the F 136 engine is based on overly optimistic assumptions. This proposal offers a fixed price for the existing engine, but not necessarily the engine that meets DOD specifications. If development problems on this immature design require design or other changes, DoD would be responsible for funding those changes. The proposal also calls for a large number of engines being produced while testing is ongoing, with that risk borne by DOD. The F136 engine is also far less mature than the F 135 engine, with only 200 hours of testing compared to the more than 13,000 hours for the F135 engine. This proposal would simply delay the current F135 engine's progress so the F136 engine could play catch up.

A single engine strategy is not new and does not create unacceptable levels of risk. Contrary to some assertions, the use of a single engine production source has seen a successful strategy for critical tactical fighter programs such as the F-22 and F-18. Further, since the F135 engine is derived from the successful F119 engine program for the F-22, the risk of a fundamental design flaw or other circumstance that would ground the fleet is significantly reduced and manageable.

Given the many pressing needs facing our military and the fiscal challenges facing our country, we cannot afford a business as usual approach to the defense budget. Tough choices must be made -by both the department and Congress -to ensure that current and future military capabilities can be sustained over time. This means programs and initiatives of marginal or no benefit -like the F136 engine -are unaffordable luxuries.

Accordingly, as I have stated repeatedly, I will strongly recommend that the President veto any legislation that contains funding for an extra JSF and unneeded engine.


Robert M. Gates

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

ABC News: Pentagon Chokes On Pork

The Fallacy of Trying to Have Cake and Eat it Too

You would think that an emphatic, “Thanks, but no thanks” from two consecutive presidents representing both main political parties and the studiously principled secretary of defense they share would deter business-as-usual Capitol Hill posturing and runaway spending. Yet, like a “middle-of dinner telemarketer,” the team pushing the F136 extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and their Congressional allies just can’t take no for an answer, even in a year when the American public has made it abundantly clear that wasteful and unnecessary projects and programs are not worth causing greater damage to the American economy while also handicapping our warfighters in their time of greatest need.

            As Defense Secretary Gates said during a May 20th press conference, “The Bush administration opposed this engine. The Obama administration opposes it. We have recommended for several years now against funding this engine, considering it a waste of money. And to argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste to protect the billion and a half (dollars) that we believe already has been wasted, frankly, I don't track the logic.”

            But what about competition, the extra engine team pleads? After all, “monopoly is not a game.” The competition to power the F-35 took place years ago, and Joint Strike Fighter prime contractor finalists Lockheed Martin and Boeing each chose Pratt & Whitney’s F135 over the F136 to power their concept demonstrators.

Ironically, the same team that lost the competition to power the F-35, has upped the rhetoric on “monopoly” despite the monopolistic position they enjoy on the 14,000 engines powering the entire Blackhawk and Apache helicopter fleets, the more than 4,000 engine monopoly they have on the entire F/A-18 fighter jet fleet, and even the ubiquitous Boeing 737 airliner (just to name a few). Apparently, living in a glass house really doesn’t deter the casting of stones.

            Along the way, the extra engine team has pedaled multiple unsolicited so-called “fixed price” proposals claiming notional savings as a result. But, ever the wary consumer, the Department of Defense, led by Secretary Gates, isn’t buying. “The proposal does provide a fixed price, but not for the engine we need,” Gates said. “The proposed engine is based on the design they currently have on the test stand, which we are deeply concerned may not meet the performance needs of the Joint Strike Fighter. Any cost to take the design to required JSF performance levels would presumably be paid by taxpayers.”

            And let’s remember that the F136 is years behind the F135. Test hours stand at merely 200 for the F136 compared to more than 17,500 for the F135. The F135 has powered every JSF to date, including a flawless vertical landing, has received government certification, and has made the transition from development to production, having delivered the first four F135 engines that will power the first F-35 aircraft for the U.S. military.

            Finally, the extra engine team’s vision of competition is actually built on the perverse notion of a “guaranteed” split buy. To quote Secretary Gates one more time from May 20, “As I've said before, only in Washington does a proposal where everybody wins get considered a competition, where everybody is guaranteed a piece of the action at the end.”

            The problem isn’t competition. First, it is the F136 team’s stubborn denial of multiple decisions by prime contractors years ago, two presidential administrations since then, and even the Senate as recently as 2009. Second, it’s their engine, which is years behind the proven F135 and might not meet DoD requirements. Lastly, it is the prospect of a rigged split buy that’s more consistent with socialist central planning than our meritocratic system where warfighters only get the best solutions the market can engineer, produce and support.

            Rather than swallow the bitter pill summed up by these dispassionate facts, the F136 team enjoys their own monopolies, while at the same time ratcheting up the political posturing and scare tactics to save the unwanted, underperforming and untenable extra engine. Guess they think they can have their “competition” cake and eat it too, while the American taxpayers and warfighters continue to foot the bill.


– EagleBlogger

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The FACTS on the extra engine for Joint Strike Fighter

FACT: The DoD says it will cost an additional $2.9B to finish the F136 engine.

In a press conference on May 20, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “We do believe that the full-up costs for us are about $2.9 billion. This department has a long and unhappy experience with overly optimistic contractor estimates.” Spending $2.9B in the hopes of saving $1B is not a responsible use of taxpayers’ dollars. The fact is, the extra engine team just keeps asking for (and receiving) billions of dollars despite having made very little progress. In 2008, the extra engine team said they only needed another $1B to finish development. Two years (and $1B later) the extra engine team is STILL saying they only need an additional $1B to complete development.

FACT: There was already a competition to power the F-35.

Competition for the JSF engine happened at the contractor level with all three JSF competitors selecting the P&W engine. This process of selecting subsystems, including the engine, as part of the overall weapon system, is standard during concept demonstration. Last year Senator Lieberman said: “There was a competition to build the engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. General Electric, in its proposal, lost that competition. Pratt & Whitney won that competition. Now, by way of legislation, the proponents of the second engine for this plane are trying to achieve, by legislation, what they could not achieve by competition.” GE has several military engine monopolies including the F-18, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters and the A-10 and they are not pushing an extra engine for those aircraft. GE is only in favor of competition when they lose.

FACT: The manufacturer of the extra engine is the largest supplier of military engines in the world and has several military engine monopolies.

GE is the largest military engine company in the world, producing 70% of U.S. military engines and has extensive military and commercial engine programs including sole-source contracts for more than 14,000 T700 engines for the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters and more than 4,000 F404 engines for the F-18. The extra engine manufacturer isn’t advocating for extra engines for those aircraft. The customer (DoD) has stated repeatedly that it does not want the extra engine, especially if the taxpayers are footing the bill.

FACT: Terminating the extra engine will save U.S. jobs and will not harm the U.S. industrial base.

U.K. based Rolls Royce is developing and manufacturing 40 percent of the extra engine, and a large portion of the Rolls Royce content will result in U.K., not U.S. jobs. In addition, the same number of engines will be built, regardless of manufacturer. A 2007 Institute of Defense Analysis study examined the top extra engine component suppliers and concluded that it is "unlikely that any supplier would exit the domestic industrial base because of F-136 termination".

FACT: Having an extra engine will cost more money, not save money.

The DoD has repeatedly stated that the notional cost savings that would result from further engine competition for the F-35 are based on unrealistic assumptions that they cannot accept. As Secretary Gates put it, “To argue that we should add another $3 billion in what we regard as waste to protect the billion and a half (dollars) that we believe already has been wasted, frankly, I don't track the logic.” The extra engine team claims that the F-35 engine program is worth $100B and that having a competing engine will generate savings. This is incorrect on both counts. First, a GAO report released in March 2010, reports that the engine program is closer to $60B. Second, the upfront cost to design and develop the extra engine will outweigh any potential savings because taxpayers must pay the full cost to develop both engines and foot the bill for two sets of parts, two production and maintenance lines, two technology advancement programs and duplicative personnel and training.

FACT: The firm fixed price offer put forward by the F-35 extra engine team is unrealistic.

Secretary Gates said on May 20, “With respect to the proposal for the extra engine, we think the proposal is based on unrealistic cost estimates. The proposal does provide a fixed price, but not for the engine we need.”

FACT: Funding of the extra engine has and will continue to reduce the number of JSF aircraft the U.S. can afford to buy, will take many away from other, more pressing DoD needs, and will have a negative impact on the warfighter.

When Congress continues to fund the extra engine against the judgment of the President and the DoD, the funding must come from somewhere else. In the past, it has come at the expense of the overall F-35 program and has already cost the JSF program four aircraft--a negative and direct impact on national security. In Congressional testimony, senior military leaders have testified that continued funding would come at the expense of 50-80 additional aircraft, aircraft our military needs. On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “We will strongly resist efforts to impose programs and changes on the department that the military does not want, cannot afford, and that takes dollars from programs and endeavors the military services do need.”

FACT: An extra engine for the JSF increases operational complexity and risk.

Single engine sources are the norm for military aircraft. No other military aircraft developed in the past three decades has been procured with multiple engine suppliers. In testimony in February Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz said, “The reality is that the F-22 and the F-18E/F are single engine airplanes. And, you know, there’s no dispute about that, and it’s because we collectively in the defense community, have become comfortable with the reliability and so on of those respective engines, one of which is a predecessor to the 135.” A case in point is the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine, powering the F-22, which is the safest, most successful fighter engine ever. The reliability of the F119 continues to set records without an extra engine. Inserting an extra engine into a program slows cost and learning curves and present operational risk and challenges to military men and women who will operate and maintain them. Proponents of the extra engine claim that a sole-source engine provider is risky. However, they are the sol-source engine provider on numerous military platforms and have never suggested those platforms need an extra engine.

FACT: The DoD is concerned about the performance of the extra engine program

On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “The proposed engine is based on the design they currently have on the test stand, which we are deeply concerned may not meet the performance needs of the Joint Strike Fighter.” The extra engine, which has yet to power an F-35 in flight, has only accumulated approximately 200 hours in 17 months of testing and has encountered significant technical difficulties. By contrast the F135 has logged more than 17,500 hours, has achieved government certification, has powered vertical flight operations, has delivered the last test engine and has transitioned to F135 production, already having delivered the first four production F135s for use by the warfighter.

FACT: The P&W engine is serving the JSF needs now and into the future and the DoD is concerned about the performance of the extra engine.

On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “The engine is far less mature. The proposed engine is still in development, has about 200 hours of testing compared to 13,000 for the F-135. The proposed engine is based on the design they currently have on the test stand, which we are deeply concerned may not meet the performance needs of the Joint Strike Fighter. Any cost to take the design to required JSF performance levels would presumably be paid by taxpayers.” By contrast, the F135 has logged more than 17,500 test hours, has achieved government certification, has powered vertical flight operations, has delivered the last test engine and has delivered the first four production F135s.

FACT: The DoD does not want or need the extra engine for the JSF.

Secretary Gates thinks funding the extra engine is wasteful and unnecessary. So does President George W. Bush, President Obama, 59 Republican and Democratic Senators, the Chiefs of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and many more.

FACT: The extra engine is at least 5 years behind the F135, and has delayed fielding of F-35 aircraft.

The extra engine is 5-7 years behind in development, has yet to power a plane in flight and has logged only a small fraction of the hours expected for this point in their test program. In approximately 17 months of testing, the extra engine has accumulated around 200 hours compared to the more than 2,300 hours that the Pratt & Whitney F135 had accumulated at the same 17-month point. Last year, the extra engine was paid for by delaying the purchase of multiple JSF test aircraft.

FACT: Procuring the F136 will delay Air National Guard deliveries.

The remaining $2.9B needed to complete the extra engine is not included in the defense budget, and must be taken from elsewhere the DoD. Money will have to be taken away from a defense program the military needs in order to fund a program they don’t need. The Air Force and the Air National Guard needs to replace its aging fleet of fighters, bombers and tankers, and wasting $2.9B on an extra engine when their fleet modernizations are underfunded makes no sense. Whether the delay is in JSF deliveries or some other impact to fleet modernization the impact to the Air National Guard will be negative.

FACT: The international JSF partners do not want to fund an extra engine.

The international partners have stated they do not want an extra engine if it will have a negative impact on the program. Buying two engines for the JSF increases the cost to the overall program limits the international partners’ on the quantity of aircraft they can afford, and delays deliveries. Extra engine supporters claim that the original the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the International Partners assured them that they would have an engine choice. In fact, the memorandum simply stated that if there were two engines, the partners could choose.

FACT: A vote for the extra engine is Washington “business as usual".

On May 20, Secretary Gates said, “Let me be clear. I believe the defense budget process should no longer be characterized by business as usual within this building or outside of it….Accordingly, as I have stated repeatedly, should the Congress insist on adding funding for a costly and unnecessary JSF extra engine or direct changes that seriously disrupt the JSF program, or impose additional C-17 aircraft, I will strongly recommend that the president veto such legislation.” Canceling funding for the extra engine has strong bi-partisan support. The Senate sent a loud message last year when a bipartisan group of 59 Senators voted for cancellation. Funding was slipped back in during conference by certain House conferees, voted against it. However, the funding was slipped back in during conference by certain House conferees

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Separating Myth From Fact

With lobbying intensifying over the wasteful extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter on Capitol Hill, it’s worth addressing a few of the more outrageous claims being made by supporters of the alternate engine with some facts from the Department of Defense's paper on the issue

Myth: “Past experience shows that two engine manufacturers competing drives down costs, spurs technological innovation and improves contractor performance.”

Fact: The Pentagon says the alternate engine would still require a further investment of $2.9 billion, and there is no guarantee that having two engines will create significant enough long-term savings to outweigh the additional costs and the burden of maintaining two logistical systems. In the middle of two wars, DoD has other higher priority uses for $2.9 billion.

Many proponents of a second engine cite the “Great Engine War” of the 1980s – when the DoD purchased engines for Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighters from two manufacturers. While much has been made of this example, the facts tell a more nuanced and inconclusive story. According to the Department of Defense, while the competition did appear to improve contractor responsiveness to Air Force needs, there were only minimal reductions in the acquisition unit price of the engines. Accordingly, it is difficult to cite this example as proof that substantial savings will occur as a result of having two engines.

In addition, the current engine contractor achieved savings of about 40% on the F119 engine on the F-22 without an alternate engine. Instead, the savings were the result of aggressive government management, improvement in the manufacturing process, and investment by both the government and the contractor. Pratt & Whitney is prepared to duplicate these results on the F135 engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

Myth: The extra engine is 70% complete and only needs an additional $1.3 billion over the next five years

Fact: According to the Pentagon, the alternate engine would still require a further investment of $2.9 billion. Some have suggested that the necessary additional investment is much less; however, they are only looking at the cost to complete development of the second engine. The investment of $2.9B includes the costs to finish the development, conduct directed buys to prepare the second source for competitive procurement beginning in FY 2017, and create the necessary logistics support to operate and sustain engines on deployed F-35 aircraft. In short, $2.9B is the total additional cost required to take the alternate engine to full competition. The $1.3 billion figure only gets you part way there.

Myth: The Joint Strike Fighter will be the primary military fighter in the future, replacing many existing aircraft. It will represent 90% of our fighter power for 30 years. So, to not provide for an alternate engine to the sole sourced primary engine would have us assume a risk for much of our country's active fighter power that we never have before.

Fact: According to the DoD, the Department currently maintains two tactical aircraft programs, the F-22A and the F-18, which utilize a single source engine provider. Both programs have enviable safety records, and DoD is satisfied with the engines for both programs. Over the years, significant advancements in engine design, testing, and production have enabled DoD to manage the risks associated with single engine systems without having to ground an entire fleet.

Myth: General Electric’s new fixed price contract proposal for the alternate engine requires the contractor to assume all the risk for cost overruns.

Fact: According to the DoD, the fixed price for the engines would require GE to assume the normal amount of risk for a fixed price contract. The price is contingent upon a fixed configuration, so any changes to that configuration would require modification of the contract price. The remaining portions of the contract may be cost-type line items, which shift the risk for performance of those line items to the Government.

Myth: The second engine is not very far behind. It will start production after only 100 of the current engines are produced.

Fact: The DoD says A direct comparison shows that the F-136 Initial Service Release (ISR) dates are at least 2-3 years behind the F-135 ISR dates. The F135 Conventional Take-off and Landing/Carrier Variant achieved its ISR date in February 2010, and the same ISR date is planned for the F-136 in December 2012. The planned F-135 Short Take-off and Vertical Landing ISR date is fourth quarter of FY10 and the same ISR date for the F-136 is planned for fourth quarter FY13. There is also no guarantee that a second engine program will not face the same challenges as the current program has already faced and be forced to delay its own program.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Resist the Call of the Sirens

It’s budget markup season in Washington, which means a plethora of seemingly well-intentioned funding requests emanating like songs from the mythical Greek sirens, who lured nearby sailors to the rocky shoreline. Congress would be wise to be wary of these enchanting, but ultimately perilous calls.

Yet some Congressional leaders seem to be swayed, once again, into lending their support for the F136 extra engine for the JSF, despite billions wasted to date, decades of successful single engine military aircraft, strong performance by the F135 primary engine, and the crushing expense of higher priorities in a climate where our nation is facing record budget deficits.

On the one hand, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) expresses his admiration for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ passion for fiscal restraint by stating he “deserves high grades for courage” and that Congress would “like to be helpful.” But then he embraces the false notion of future competition for the engine to power the JSF, despite the Pratt & Whitney F135’s numerous wins throughout the F-35’s development and detailed reports that show that the F136 will consume another $2.9 billion in the unlikely hope of saving $1 billion later.

This knee-jerk reaction to buck the oft-stated wishes of the White House and Defense Department is puzzling, especially given Gates’ most recent comments on the urgent need to reign in runaway spending. En route to Kansas City on May 7, he told the media, “The message that I've had for the Congress over the last couple of years (is) that a dollar that they make us spend on stuff we don't need is a dollar we can't spend on what we do need. And in this constrained budget environment, that becomes all the more important.”

It’s also puzzling that the Senate, which ultimately rejected funding the F136 by a vote of 59-38 in 2009, would now follow the House and re-insert funding during their own committee markup process. The rhetorical similarities are disturbingly striking. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and chairman of that body’s air-land panel said, "The committee has always believed that, to be a balanced program, competition needed to be an element of the engine program." Yet, this competition argument has been debunked before, and for good measure, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief Ashton Carter reiterated on May 4, “There is not a good analytical case that the upfront costs of the second engine would be paid back."

During his airborne press conference, Gates added, “One of the members of Congress, I'm told, said, ‘Well, why is $3 billion for the alternative engine such a big deal when we've got a trillion-dollar deficit?’ I would submit that's one of the reasons we have a trillion-dollar deficit, is that kind of thinking.”

In light of the current economic crisis, ongoing war efforts and the strong anti-earmark political climate, it seems Congress would want to make a clean break from pork barrel politics. Resist funding the F136 not simply to avoid the embarrassment and needless conflict associated with a potential Presidential veto. Do so because if this sort of wasteful spending isn’t stopped now, then there is little hope such budgetary recklessness will ever be curtailed. Ignore the selfish and deceitful sirens; instead, heed the clarion call of truth. If not now, when?

-- Eagleblogger

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just the Facts

       As the Pratt & Whitney F135 team this month celebrates two important milestones – delivery of the last F135 test engine, as well as the fourth and final engine in LRIP Lot 1 – the F136 team appears more concerned about trying to relive the past, or rather their perception of what might have occurred.

        We are, of course, referring to the so-called “Great Engine War” – an event that supposedly generated up to 20% cost savings for the taxpayer thanks to F-15 and F-16 engine competition. And while this handy bit of revisionism makes for a catchy slogan or two as part of the latest campaign to save the F136, it doesn’t necessary reflect reality. But don’t take our word for it.

        In 1989, Donald Pilling of the highly credible and fiercely independent Brookings Institution released a study entitled Competition in Defense Procurement.  As part of that work the author references USAF analysis that was presented to the House Committee on Armed Services and entered into the Congressional Record of the 98th Congress in 1984. The Air Force analysis is presented below, labeled Table 2-2.

Table 2-2.  Air Force Analysis of Alternative Procurements for Fighter Engines

Billions of fiscal 1983 dollars unless otherwise specified








Savings relative to a split award

Contract award

Cost to





Six annual purchases








All to Pratt & Whitney




All to General Electric










One purchase followed by five annual purchases








All to Pratt & Whitney




All to General Electric




Source: Defense Department Authorization and Oversight, Hearings on H.R. 5167 before the Committee on Armed Services,

98 Cong. 2 sess. (GPO, 1984), pt. 2, p. 255



Cited from: Competition in Defense Procurement, Donald L. Pilling, The Brookings Institution, 1989, pg 28.

Pilling’s analysis showed that split buys in two different scenarios would actually cost 5-6% or roughly $1 billion more than choosing a sole source acquisition strategy with Pratt & Whitney or General Electric. Sadly, the Air Force saw little option at the time but to continue along the path of competition for other arcane reasons, but in Pilling’s words, “Reducing program cost was not a factor…” Yet it’s worth noting that since then no military aircraft program has recreated such a contrived construct. Either way you look at it, full credit goes to the Defense Department, which has learned the true lessons of the past and vigorously opposes an extra engine for the F-35. As Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn wrote on February 23rd to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, “While much has been made of this example (The “Great Engine War”), the facts tell a more nuanced and inconclusive story.”

Despite all the rhetoric, the F-35 engine debate really needs to focus on the customer. This debate is about delivering the best and most affordable solution to DoD so that the true beneficiaries are American and allied warfighters, plus the taxpayers who support them. To that end, the Pentagon’s position, reinforced by Presidents Bush and Obama, begs the question: why does the F136 team think they know more than the Defense Department? If they’re looking for a slogan, we humbly suggest, “The customer is always right.”

        – Eagleblogger


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Triple Threat: Good News on F135 Engine Testing, Production and Cost

As F-35 testing accelerates, so do the milestones for Pratt & Whitney’s F135, the sole engine powering the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Significant progress is worth noting in three crucial areas: increased testing, production deliveries and cost containment.

First, completed test hours now stand at roughly 13,500 out of a planned total of 14,832. The remaining hours will be logged this year now that all 11 ground test and 18 flight test engines have been delivered. Following the dramatically flawless first F-35B vertical landing in March, initial service release tests for the STOVL version have begun, marking the final phase of development for the F135.

Second, the completion of engine development on the CTOL/CV variant was marked by the official certification by the F-35 Joint Program Office on January 31, 2010. The first four CTOL/CV production engines have been delivered to the customer with 18 more to come before the end of 2010. This rate of roughly two engines per month should double in 2012 to four per month for low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 5.

Finally, this undeniably positive news about the F135 was reinforced during Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) testimony given recently, On April 13, U.S. Navy and Air Force officials recognized cost reduction progress on the F135 and reiterated opposition to the F136 alternative engine.

In prepared remarks delivered to the SASC’s Airland Subcommittee, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral David Architzel and his colleagues stated, “The Joint Assessment Team assessed that the F135 engine cost goals are achievable with the proper investment in cost reduction initiatives. The focus in the coming year will be to ensure the engine manufacturer and the government implement the necessary efforts to achieve the cost goals. The current LRIP 4 engine proposal shows that the engine manufacturer has begun to reduce cost in alignment with the JAT assessments and recommendations.”

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark D. Shackelford and Maj. Gen. Johnny A. Weida said, “Continued funding for the F136 engine carries cost penalties to both the F135 and F136 engines in the form of reduced production line learning curves and inefficient economic order quantities. The department concludes that maintaining a single engine supplier provides the best balance of cost and risk. We believe the risks associated with a single source engine supplier are manageable due to improvements in engine technology and do not outweigh the investment required to fund a competitive alternate engine.”

When asked later in the hearing about the projected additional $2.9 billion associated with continued F136 development, Shackelford added, “Given the precious resources we have, we're better spending the money by continuing to refine the F135 and press forward with that as the engine for the F-35.”

-- EagleBlogger