The US Presidential election could further delay a funding decision on the GE/Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team’s F136 engine, one of the two powerplant options for the Lockhed Martin F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

In competition with Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine, the F136 is, according to GE project director Jean Lydon-Rodgers, “at its peak year, or half-way point, since the engine’s core first ran in 2001/2002. In fact, 2008 will probably see the maximum spend during the entire programme, so it’s just a case of the politicians allocating the necessary amount from the $1.3 billion that remains from the original funding agreement that expires in 2013.

“However, whether the decision comes before or after the election, we’ll just have to wait and see, although I’m pleased that for the past three years we have enjoyed bi-partisan congressional support, so I’m very positive about the outcome.”

According to Lydon-Rodgers, initial low-rate production funding for three engines and one to test will also be decided in 2009. As to the desirability of having a choice of two engines for JSF customers, Lydon-Rodgers says that the history of the Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon programme, where the same two protagonists provided the engine options, (F110 from GE and F100 from P&W), shows that it can be a positive move, as the USAF benefited from better contracts, greater safety, higher performance and lower costs.

The Fighter Team relationship between GE and Rolls-Royce is, according to Lydon-Rodgers, working extremely well. “Right from the start we identified and recognised each other’s abilities. I’ve worked in a lot of partnerships and I can honestly say that this is one of the best.”

The first test of a SDD-standard F136 engine will be in Q1 2009, while the first flights of the F136-powered JSF will be in 2010 (CTOL) and 2011 (STOVL). The Fighter Engine Team powerplant is around three years behind the competing F135 engine as GE/R-R joined the programme later.

 GE/Rolls-Royce F136

As the contracts for powering the JSF will be worth a total of around $100bn over 30 or 40 years for engines and spares, it’s scarcely surprising that the two competitors are keen to get the lion’s share of orders.

*  The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team announced at Farnborough on 16 July that it has successfully completed STOVL testing on an F136 engine at GE’s testing facility at Peebles, Ohio. The F136 engine will be available to power all variants of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the US military and eight partner nations.

All test objectives were reached as planned in the Peebles testing as the engine was configured in a variety of modes, leading to STOVL testing with common hardware systems for the F-35.

Testing also included the advanced controls architecture, which was demonstrated successfully in closed-loop mode operation. This important milestone was reached with the controls system developed under the Fighter Engine Team’s ongoing System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract.

The Fighter Engine Team’s recent tests were conducted with F136 engines originally produced during the pre-SDD contract. Since then, the powerplants have been updated with new fan, augmentor and controls technology designed during the SDD process.

“These successful tests demonstrate the continued dedication of the Fighter Engine Team to meet its deadlines and stay within budget, while we press forward to deliver our production-configuration engine in a matter of months. Our Peebles test site is unique and allowed the F136 test engine to be put through its paces in all F-35 configurations,” says Lydon-Rodgers.

The pre-SDD engines have totalled more than 700h of test time, contributing significantly to risk reduction in the programme. The testing has included multiple simulated flying conditions, at high-altitude and sea-level, with full afterburner and STOVL operations.


Source: Flight International