Engine collaboration will form long-term support infrastructure for F136 family

General Electric and Rolls-Royce have sought US and UK government approval to establish an international joint fighter engine company for the F136 turbofan in development for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The move could be announced as early as this week's Farnborough air show, say US government sources. The company is expected to be modelled on the GE/Snecma CFM International venture and will be structured to give GE a 60% share and Rolls-Royce 40%.

JSF programme sources say the joint company is not intended to work on projects other than the F136 and is being established to form a long-term support infrastructure for F136-powered members of the JSF family, which is likely to include at least three sub-variants for the different F-35 versions.

Although GE declines to comment, the two companies are thought to have decided on a joint structure as soon as the F136 was funded as a JSF engine. GE is only prepared to say that "the two companies have been talking about supportability issues".

The roots of the joint company can be traced back to 1994 when Allison and GE agreed to collaborate on research and development work as part of the US government's Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology programme.

This relationship was expanded in 1997 with the start of what became the JSF programme and continued to grow after Rolls-Royce's acquisition of the Indianapolis-based company. Although most US government-related JSF contacts are conducted through the Allison Advanced Development Company (AADC), the formal presence of Rolls-Royce has grown since the JSF programme office engine inter-changeability agreement was signed in June 2001.

Testing of the first F136 is scheduled to begin in 2007, with the first flight on a conventional take-off and landing F136-powered F-35 set for mid-2008.

Both Pratt & Whitney F135 engines and GE-Rolls-Royce F136 engines will be ordered for production Lots 4 and 5, but the two teams will compete head on in Lot 6 in around 2011.

Source: Flight International