General Electric and Rolls-Royce are preparing to begin short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) testing of a prototype F136 engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The GE/R-R Fighter Engine Team has also completed the F136 critical design review and been cleared to begin building development engines, amid signs the US Congress will again overturn Department of Defense efforts to cancel the JSF alternative engine.
The team expects to begin ground-testing the first system development and demonstration (SDD) F136 early in 2009. Two pre-SDD engines are currently being tested.
F136 is prepared for STOVL tests at GE's Peebles, Ohio site © GE Aviation
One is under test in conventional take-off and landing mode, in simulated flight conditions, at the US Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. The other is being prepared for testing in STOVL mode at GE's test site in Peebles, Ohio.
"Nearly all of the STOVL hardware is currently in place on the test stand, but the drive shaft to the lift fan is not connected," says the FET. "We are going to run some 'up and away' tests first, without the STOVL hardware connected. Then the engineers will connect everything and continue with STOVL testing in the near future."
Meanwhile, Lockheed expects the first flight of the STOVL F-35B to be delayed by a month or less following the turbine blade failure on its Pratt & Whitney F135 flight-test engine during proof testing. P&W is expected to deliver a replacement engine in March, allowing a first flight by the end of June.
The Pentagon tried to cancel the GE/R-R alternative engine last year, but Congress restored full funding for fiscal year 2008. Assuming Congress acts again to restore FY2009 funding, the F136 is planned to fly in the F-35 in 2010, with the first production engines scheduled for delivery in late 2012, during the fourth JSF production lot.