F136 engine completes STOVL testing

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The General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 alternate engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has completed a round of short-take-off vertical-landing (STOVL) testing. According to Jean Lydon-Rodgers, president of the GE/R-R fighter engine team, the programme will be ready to deliver a production-configurarion engine "in a matter of months".

The F136 has past the midpoint of a five-year, $2.4 billion system development and demonstration phase. Tests on the first SDD engine is scheduled for early 2009 and first flight is set in 2010. But the engine is facing a termination threat for the third year in a row.

stovl f-35 jsf
 © Lockheed Martin

The US Department of Defense has refused to request funds to continue developing the engine. The US Congress has restored the funds the past two years, and appears likely to do so again this year.

The STOVL mode is one of the most challenging aspects of the programme. The Pratt & Whitney F135, the baseline engine for the F-35, is struggling to overcome turbine blade fatigue issues caused by the stresses of shifting from conventional to STOVL mode.

So far, tests on the GE/R-R alternative have successfully demonstrated closed-loop mode operation.