Alternative F136 Engine for F-35 JSF Lives To Fight On

 - June 3, 2010, 6:51 AM
Derived from the YF120 engine that lost the F-22 powerplant competition, the GE/RR F136 faces an uphill struggle to stay funded as an alternate F-35 JSF engine. (Photo credit: GE)

The U.S. House of Representatives on May 28 voted to retain funding for the F136 engine General Electric and Rolls-Royce are developing for the F-35 as an alternative to the Pratt & Whitney F135. The FY11 Defense Authorization Bill contains $485 million for continuation of the engine, which is around 70 percent through its development program. The vote followed a mark-up to the bill by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) that was agreed to on May 14.

General Electric was naturally delighted. “We applaud the HASC action,” said David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation. “Given the enormity of the JSF program, competing engines on the aircraft is the best way to put the acquisition reform act into action. With the growing concern over cost overruns in defense programs, competition continues to be the best cost-control mechanism.” In an official statement the company went on to say, “We are pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives has once again voted in favor of the JSF competitive engine. This vote reaffirmed the Congress's strong and long-standing commitment to the F136 program. It is a win for competition and a win for the American taxpayers. The JSF competitive engine will save $20 billion over the 30-year span of the Joint Strike Fighter program, according to the independent Government Accountability Office.”

However, the F136 continues to face concerted opposition, especially in the Pentagon. Speaking in late May at a Pentagon press conference, Rear Admiral Mike Manazir stated that the U.S. Navy would deploy only one type of engine in its JSFs that go to sea to optimize logistics and supply chains. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also said that President Obama would veto the FY11 Defense Authorization Bill if it contains funding for the alternate engine.