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New vote backs competitive engine strategy for F-35

The General Electric/Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team (FET) has won enough support in a new vote to maintain a competitive propulsion strategy for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, despite continued opposition from the Obama administration.

The US House of Representatives on 30 July backed continued funding for the GE/R-R F136 engine by 400 to 30 votes. Its action supports the release of $560 million in funds to advance development and production of the JSF's alternative powerplant during fiscal year 2010.

"This competition will benefit military customers in the USA and around the world," says Rolls-Royce North America chief executive James Guyette. R-R adds that the FET's rivalry with the JSF's primary Pratt & Whitney F135 "avoids handing a $100 billion engine monopoly to a sole-source provider without going through a competitive selection process".

The GE/R-R team has two F136 engines in test for the conventional take-off and landing F-35A, and a first example for the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B will join the programme early next year. The FET expects to conduct around 10,000h of tests "within the next couple of years", before delivering its first production engines in 2012. R-R says the F136's development is on budget and "roughly 70%" complete.

GE/Rolls-Royce F136 
© Fighter Engine Team

The US Congress has yet to vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill, but if it also supports the continuation of the F136 programme its action could prompt President Barack Obama to veto the Department of Defense's FY2010 budget, as threatened in late June.

The House of Representatives vote could also set up a clash over the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland VH-71 (AW101) presidential helicopter, having favoured a continuation of the axed programme in its vote.

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