And the JSF Alternate Engine War Begins, Again

Well, it looks like backers of GE-Rolls Royce’s F136 alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may have more ammo to renew their campaign to get the Pentagon to buy the engine amidst news that Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine’s “cost performance” does not make Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer happy.

Apparently, Carter told House lawmakers yesterday that he isn’t happy with cost growth he sees in both the F135 engine and the overall F-35 program. This comes after the Pentagon restructured the F-35 program and cut all cash for the F136 engine.  The DoD has long wanted to kill the F136, claiming that short term development costs are too high to justify the long-term savings generated by having a second engine. GE-Rolls and their allies on Capitol Hill claim the competition between the F135 and F136 will ensure higher-quality engines and keep prices down.

Pratt officials insist their engine is on plan to meet the DoD’s cost and delivery requirements.

It looks like this is the beginning of a new round of fighting to keep the second engine alive, with several lawmakers jumping back into the fray, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Buck McKeon, R-Calif. According to Politico, McKeon wants to make sure that “competition remains in the Joint Strike Fighter program.”


  • Chops

    They should continue development of the F136 engine then do a head to head competition with Pratt and Whitneys engine.Either way it can’t hurt to have a backup in case something goes wrong somewhere down the line.

  • Forrest Cantrell

    And at what cost for something that “can’t hurt”?

  • Nick

    I really fail to see how more competition can be a bad thing. Sure it will cost more money up front funding the development of a second engine, but if you use it as a hedge against gouging or cost explosion it’s probably a reasonable investment. Then again I know little about this whole ordeal, that’s just common sense talking.

  • FtD

    I’m utterly amazed by the single minded approach from Gates that he puts all the eggs into one basket with absolutely no way to turn, no space for growth & no plan B whatsoever.
    Crying out loud this is THE single most expensive/important fighter jet program ever taken in history with no backup & no contingency plan at all??? No wonder all the so called ‘partners’ are reconsidering their options.

    • blight

      Most jets stick to one engine and are only re-engined later in life. Two engines this early is an uncommon practice, and makes early integration somewhat difficult.

  • Flyright

    Blight is right. Two administrations, the US Senate and the House of Representatives have all spoken loudly and clearly — no need to waste taxpayer dollars on developing (note not flying) an extra engine for the F-35. With a tightening budget it just makes no sense. And why is it that GE can’t take no for an answer. It’s not as if they aren’t building lots of other jet engines for the US military. It’s time to cut losses and move on.

  • IMBtrThnU

    Really? No need for a competition? So we fail like we did in the development of the F-16? PW sucked enough to warrant an engine from GE. It has been proven that the engine competition will save money in the long term. History is repeating itself right now…PW is failing to produce a quality product on an aircraft with only one engine…but all you care about it right now huh?