Pratt & Whitney was last week preparing to make the first run of a complete F135 short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) propulsion system for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The run was expected to take place at its West Palm Beach test site in Florida on 12 April.

The test, due to be reached around two months before the contracted date, marks a major milestone in the five-year development programme that began last October with the first run of a conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F135 engine. Four STOVL engines are planned for the initial system development and demonstration (SDD) test phase, joining the three CTOL engines already running in the effort.

Despite the airframe cost and weight issues that threaten the overall JSF schedule, P&W and its F135 team-mates Rolls-Royce and Hamilton Sundstrand remain on track for completing tests to support first flights for the CTOL F-35 in October 2005 and the STOVL aircraft in April 2006.

"We're under contract and that hasn't changed," says director international programmes Ed O'Donnell.

Source: Flight International