Pratt & Whitney’s engines power a wide range of military aircraft in operation around the world, but 2011’s developments in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Lightning II program made the company’s year–especially as its F135 became the sole powerplant for all three Lockheed Martin JSF variants: the conventional F-35A, STOVL F-35B and carrier-based (CV) F-35C.
According to Bennett Croswell, Pratt & Whitney’s president for military engines, 2011 was a good year for the program. In October and November, the STOVL aircraft completed sea trials. Also last year, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded a long-lead production contract for the F-35 and Japan became the 13th customer to join the program.
The ship trials involved two F-35B jets deploying to the U.S.S. Wasp for 20 days, said Crosswell. This exercise contributed to nearly 1,000 flights undertaken by F-35 test aircraft during the year.
Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney delivered a further 27 production-standard engines in 2011 to add to the first 12, delivered in 2010. It is due to deliver around 50 engines this year, confirmed Crosswell. “The first aircraft are deployed at Eglin [Air Force Base in Florida] now, so it will soon be truly operational,” he explained to AIN.
Asked about what it meant for Pratt & Whitney that the U.S. Secretary of State had eliminated the possibility of the GE/Rolls-Royce rival F136 engine being continued, Crosswell commented: “Our focus remains the same as always–getting the cost down. For example, we took $1.5 million out of costs last year, so we are behaving no differently now that the F136 is not in it.” He admitted, however, that being “so far along” with the F135 program had meant the F136 would have a lot of catching up to do. The F135 has now logged more than 20,000 hours powering the F-35 fighter.
Asia Pacific Success
Japan was a big deal for the program, with it beating off rival bids from Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Boeing (with the F-18) to win the order. This takes the F-35 customer base to 13: eight partner nations, Israel and Japan, and the three U.S. services.
The next big announcement will be the downselect by South Korea where the F-35 is up against the Boeing F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoon–a choice that involves Pratt & Whitney engines on two of the three competing platforms: the F135 and the F100 on the F-35 and F-15, respectively. Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney hopes that Singapore will ultimately choose to order the F-35. At present it has “observer status” as a so-called security cooperative participant.
The other big regional news in 2011 was the announcement that India is to procure 10 Boeing C-17 transport aircraft, each of which will be powered by four Pratt & Whitney F-117 units (so the total will be 40 fitted engines plus five spares). “This was big as it is a relatively large buy,” said Cresswell, who also noted that Australia took its fifth C-17 in the year, with a sixth likely to follow.
Moving out of production after only 187 (plus eight development aircraft) were made–out of the initially planned total of 1,500–is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter, which is powered by Pratt & Whitney’s F119 engine. “This year we will deliver the last one,” said Crosswell. The F119 recently exceeded 200,000 flight hours on the aircraft.
Separately, Pratt & Whitney has just received a contract from the Royal Jordanian Air Force to provide maintenance for the F100-PW-220E engines that power its Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters. The two-year contract will cover 68 engines with work being carried out at the engine maker’s support facility in San Antonio, Texas.