GE, Rolls-Royce power down F136 engine fight

Washington DC
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General Electric and Rolls-Royce have abandoned an almost six-year campaign to save the F136 alternate engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 from termination.

Both companies have decided to stop self-funding the development of the F136, and to discontinue one of the most aggressive and sustained lobbying campaigns in the history of US weapons contracting.

The Department of Defense has been trying to cancel the alternate engine programme since 2006. Until earlier this year, however, Congress had faithfully restored funding for the F136 every time the DoD tried to delete the programme's budget.

That changed when a new Congress was elected last year, with a wave of budget-cutting fervour. The fiscal year 2011 defence budget was passed without funding for the F136, and an attempt to insert an amendment to the appropriations bill to support the programme was defeated.

GE and Rolls-Royce offered to continue self-funding the programme to complete the remaining 20% of the development work. The completed F136 would then have been offered as an alternative to the Pratt & Whitney F135 for production examples of the F-35.

"Difficult circumstances are converging that impact the potential benefit of an F136 self-funded development effort," said Dan McCormick, president of the GE/Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team joint venture.

The decision leaves P&W alone in the market for the F-35 propulsion system, although Rolls-Royce supplies the lift fan system for the F-35B short take-off and vertical variant.