Companies optimistic that Congressional conference will restore lost development funds

General Electric and Rolls-Royce are optimistic that a Congressional appropriations conference in September will restore development funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's (JSF) F136 alternate engine to bridge a gap threatening to stall the programme next year.

The GE/R-R Fighter Engine Team completed a Phase III F136 critical design review (CDR) in mid-August, clearing the way for first full engine tests in July next year.

The team has been lobbying hard to restore up to $440 million in funding cut by the JSF programme office (JPO) from 2004-9, and believes "there is tremendous momentum" building to reinsert $56 million of the missing money into 2004's defence budget.

"There is still a way to go, but the JPO has expressed its desire to restore multi-year procurement funding to the point where we can stay on our original target," says GE.

Without securing the 2004 funding, the alternate engine system development and demonstration (SDD) phase would be delayed by one year and the F136's availability by two years. "We've had a lot of people coming to support the programme from both within the government and from the international partners," adds GE, which says potential overseas JSF customers have been particularly keen to see competition maintained with Pratt & Whitney's F135, lead engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35.

Meanwhile, first hardware for the initial F136 has begun to arrive at GE, including the compressor and first- and second-stage blisks made by the Netherlands' Philips Aerospace.

GE, with responsibility for 60% of the engine, is developing the high-pressure (HP) compressor, turbine and afterburner, while R-R has responsibility for the front fan, combustor, stage two and three of the low-pressure (LP) compressor and gearbox.

R-R, which has 40% of the programme, is also working jointly with GE to develop an integrated HP/LP counter-rotating turbine design, while Avio in Italy has LP turbine and accessory gearbox work.

The CDR forms part of the Phase III pre-SDD work that runs until 2005 under a four-year $453 million contract. Contract award for the SDD phase is due in 2005.

Source: Flight International