The law of unintended consequences today struck the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 fighter engine team, which produces the controversial alternate engine for the F-35 fighter.
The company emailed reporters a copy of the House Armed Services Committee's fact sheet describing details of Department of Defense report on the alternate engine.
The fact sheet was intended to be supportive, reflecting HASC Chairman Representative Ike Skelton's outspoken support for the F136.
However, a paragraph buried at the bottom of page 2 of the document also revealed a potential bombshell facing F136 affordability and availability. I excerpt the passage below:
"DOD states that the alternate engine program would require $2.5 billion over the next five years and $2.9 billion over six years. DOD assumptions slip the development and competitive procurement of the F136 by three years which adds cost to the program."It certainly does. GE/Rolls have estimated F136 development will cost $1.3 billion over the next five years, which includes $400 million for production tooling. That's slightly more than half the value of DOD's current cost estimates, according to Skelton's fact sheet.
The industry team's estimate came before Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, decided to restructure the overall program, potentially slashing production by about 100 aircraft over the next five years. If the DOD buys fewer F-35s and more slowly, the number of engines required is also likely to decline.