The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Pratt & Whitney a contract modification on October 14 for a seventh low-rate initial production lot (LRIP) of F135 engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The agreement includes the engine maker’s commitment to pay the cost of modifying the fan section in 150 delivered engines following a June engine fire that grounded the F-35 fleet and prevented its international debut in the UK.
Pratt & Whitney F135
Root-cause analysis of the F135 engine failure that grounded the F-35 fleet in July will be completed by the end of the month. Meanwhile, the problem is already sufficiently understood for Pratt & Whitney to have devised an interim fix. F-35s are flying again, but with borescope inspections mandated every three flying hours.
The threat of renewed U.S. government budget sequestration in FY2016 loomed large at this week’s U.S. Air Force Association (AFA) conference and exposition. Nevertheless, Air Force leadership seemed confident that they could protect their top-priority procurements: the F-35 stealth fighter, KC-46 tanker and the long-range strike bomber (LRS-B). This same week, the U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution to enable uninterrupted spending on operations and procurement from October 1, the start of FY2015. A definitive National Defense Authorization (NDA) for FY2015 is not expected until January.
Lockheed Martin (LM) staged a ceremonial rollout of the first two F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on July 24 at Fort Worth, Texas.
Nine heavy hitters from the Lockheed Martin F-35 program fronted Tuesday’s media briefing here at Farnborough. But even three senior Pentagon officials, one Air Force general and five industry chiefs could not conjure the actual hardware–although the good news at the show yesterday was that the F-35 was given clearance to fly with “a restricted flight envelope.” The four F-35Bs slated to fly to the UK were have been grounded at NAS Patuxent River after a June 23 engine fire at Eglin AFB in Florida.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 may yet show up here, but the odds were still against it yesterday, as AIN went to press. A senior Pentagon official said Thursday that all F-35 engines had been inspected and no faults found. But the organization responsible for the four F-35B STOVL versions that are supposed to make the transatlantic trip did not lift the grounding.
Pratt & Whitney Canada started running a full PW800 engine demonstrator late last year, company vice president of business aviation and military programs Michael Perodeau told AIN yesterday. He confirmed that the demonstration effort has progressed according to plan but gave little detail.
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin will retrofit early production lots of F-35Bs delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps with modified bulkheads to address cracking issues that came to light during durability testing of ground articles last fall. It will build redesigned bulkheads into the fighter beginning with low-rate production lot (LRIP) 9, said Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy program manager with the Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office (JPO).
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II notched its 10,000th flight hour in September, and by the end of the month the combined Joint Strike Fighter fleet had flown 6,492 times for 10,077 hours. Illustrating the momentum that the program has built since operational production aircraft began training operations, more than half the total was amassed in the past 11 months. It had previously taken the program six years to reach the 5,000-hour milestone.
Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reached an agreement in principle to fund the next two low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, comprising 71 aircraft. The company and DOD jointly announced the “handshake agreement” on July 30 in advance of signing the LRIP contracts, which will provide consecutive, 4-percent reductions in the unit cost of U.S. military variants, they said. The parties said they will release cost details when the contracts are finalized.
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