House appropriators boost F136 funding

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Funding for a controversial alternate engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 has received another boost in the appropriations process.

Defence subcommittee members on the House of Representatives appropriations panel voted to overrule the Department of Defense for the fifth straight year and add funds to continue development of the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136.

ge/rolls-royce f136

The vote comes after the full House passed by a 231-193 margin a similar measure proposed by the armed services committee, which authorised the appropriators to add funding for the F136.

The appropriations bill now faces a vote by the full House. Meanwhile, the Senate also is working on its own version of the appropriations bill, with F136 funding as one of the key issues in dispute.

Congress and the DoD have sparred over the F136 funding issue since 2006, when the former first proposed to eliminate the Joint Strike Fighter's alternate engine. Pratt & Whitney is already building F135 engines to power the F-35's three variants.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have argued that developing an alternate engine is neither more cost-effective nor safer. But a majority of lawmakers have so far taken the opposite view, often citing the Great Engine War of the 1980s that improved the performance and safety of both engines powering the Lockheed F-16 and Boeing F-15.

The GE/R-R Fighter Engine Team says the F136 programme needs another $485 million this year and $1.84 billion overall to complete development. The DoD estimates the actual cost will rise to $2.9 billion.

The industry partners have countered, however, that the team will offer the F136 at a fixed price and assume the risk of cost overruns.