MROAM: USAF breaks up P&W monopoly on C-17 engine services

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Pratt & Whitney says it accepts a US Air Force decision to break up the company's 18-year grip on sustainment services for the engines that power the global fleet of Boeing C-17A airlifters.

The USAF has issued a request for proposals seeking competitive bids for a contract to manage the supply chain for the F117, which is the military derivative of the PW2000 turbofan that P&W supplies for the four-engined strategic transport.

P&W has managed all F117 sustainment services since 1995 under a performance-based logistics (PBL) deal that ties fees and payments to meeting certain performance criteria, such as time-on-wing. However, the USAF is now moving to a conventional maintenance services deal.

"There's been encouragement from Congress to have a competition," says Bennett Croswell, president of P&W military engines. "It's really hard from [the USAF] to have a PBL and compete it because no one else has the full intellectual property that we do to be really effective in a PBL. So I can understand that they're doing what they're doing."

At the same time, Croswell says P&W is proud of its performance under the PBL contract, which included a 60% reduction in engine removals since 2008 and a seven-fold increase in time-on-wing since 1995.

P&W now must compete for the new F117 supply chain management contract against several new bidders.

"It will be more of a transactional contract," Croswell says. "This will inform that debate [about the value of PBLs] because we're going away from a PBL and now we'll see how a transactional approach to maintaining this engine, will that cost more or less?"

The competition required P&W and the USAF to reach an agreement on access to some of the company's intellectual property (IP) on the F117 installed base. P&W will provide the bidders with the same data that it supplies to commercial airlines that operate the PW2000 engine, Croswell says.

"There was an IP discussion and issue for a while, but I think we've gotten around that," he says.

Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database records the current global C-17 fleet as totalling 251 aircraft, with these flown by the air forces of Australia, Canada, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the USA, plus a consortium of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.