Guy Norris/Cincinnati

General Electric, Allison Engines and its UK parent company Rolls-Royce are planning the formation of a joint military-engine group aimed specifically at the US/UK Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme.

The proposed group represents a radical extension of the partnership already established to develop a powerplant for the JSF, ranged against Pratt & Whitney's F119. It will be based on the structure of CFM International (CFMI), the joint venture between GE and Snecma which produces the CFM56 turbofan. If it is sanctioned, GE will hold 60% of the group now dubbed simply "the dormant entity". Allison and R-R would each hold 20%, with the Allison share probably led by its Advanced Development group.

GE military-engine operation vice-president and general manager Dennis Little says: "At the moment, we have a leader-supplier relationship, but when we have a go-ahead contract we will form an entity similar to CFMI so we can truly be a joint operation."

The timing for the formation of the entity, potentially the most powerful military-engine group ever created, will depend on the progress of their current four-phase JSF programme. This is now moving into phase two with a firm contract to test a core engine towards the end of 2000. Phase one covered the selection of GE's YF120 over its F110 as the basis for the JSF core. The first opportunity for the go-ahead could come with phase three which is based on the building and demonstration of a full-scale turbofan.

"We could invoke it sometime during the turbofan demonstration", says Little, who adds: "We're working with the US Government to put together a production-standard turbofan." A contract for the demonstrator, which could be run around 2002, is hoped for "within ten months", says Little. Phase four of the JSF effort, covering the design, development and qualification of the engine, "-depends on the timing of the programme and on when they need an alternative engine", he adds.

GE is confident that an alternative will be required for the JSF. "The US Government sees advantages of competition in terms of price and attention to the programme. The US Air Force will have a huge fleet of those aircraft and they don't like to have a whole fleet tied up with a single engine type," says Little. One of the biggest drivers behind the planned teaming, however, is the extra leverage expected for international sales. Under the provisional "entity" agreement, GE will have the programme lead for US sales and R-R the lead for the UK. Other foreign sales will be agreed on a "case-by-case" basis, says Little.

The work scope is already laid out for the group, with GE responsible for the overall engine and core, Allison for much of the hot section and R-R the fan, low-pressure turbine and various systems. The creation of the entity is "a natural spin-off" of the GE-Allison teaming on the US integrated high-performance turbine-engine technology effort. The involvement of R-R comes about because of UK interest in the JSF.

Source: Flight International