News of late has been bittersweet for Tom Farmer, president of Pratt & Whitney's (stand B20) military engines business. Although the USA plans to boost its need for his F135 engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the company's biggest customer also announced the demise of the Lockheed F-22 and Boeing C-17 programmes, both of which use P&W powerplants.

Farmer shares his thoughts on the future of key military programmes as shifting priorities reshape the landscape. In his position since 2003, Farmer previously headed the F135 programme, and before that led activities on the F119 for the F-22.

In his new job, he is responsible for the entire military portfolio, including the F119, F135, F100, F117, J52, TF33 and TF30 engines, small military engines and advanced programmes

Q What's the current state of the market for Pratt & Whitney military engines?

The military market is at a crossroads for a couple of programmes. US defence secretary Robert Gates has announced an end to the F-22 and C-17 programmes, in 2011 and 2010, respectively, and his support for more F-35 JSFs. Since we provide the engines for those three aircraft, Gates' comments are significant to Pratt & Whitney and our business. Consider that we plan to produce 184 military engines this year, and by 2015 that number is likely to be less than 170 a year, split between the F135 and F100.

 Tom Farmer - Pratt & Whitney
 © Pratt & Whitney

Outside that, our F100 business remains strong as international customers continue to place orders for the Boeing F-15 and Lockheed Martin F-16. Our advanced programmes are doing well too, with a lot of good strong development going on under government contracts. Our maintenance, repair and overhaul business is growing. Most recently we opened an F100 overhaul shop in Belgium. We're working hard to please and meet customer demands

Q How will you respond to Gates' announcements vis-à-vis, the C-17 and F-22?

We're going to keep our heads down and keep on performing as we are today. Our propulsion systems are performing extremely well despite very challenging uses of those air systems, and we're expanding sustainment on both. We have more than 100,000 operational hours on the F119 engine for the F-22, a programme on which we partner the US Air Force for depot and engine shop work.

For the C-17, we've managed that set of engines on a fleet management programme to make sure that spares are at the ready. We're performing well on both.

QWhat's the latest on the F135 programme?

We'll be delivering nine production F135 engines this year for the JSF. That is a result of the excellent capabilities that have been demonstrated in the ongoing system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of the Lockheed Martin contract. We started short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) testing and have demonstrated full capability in hover pit testing. We'll be ready for STOVL demonstration flight-testing in a few months.

Q How is the landscape changing for your legacy engines?

Although the TF30 is nearing retirement in the Australian Air Force's General Dynamics F-111 fleet, the J52 engines continues to operating in McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks in several countries and the US Navy continues to fly the engine in the Northrop Grumman EA-6B. The US Air Force still uses the TF33 engine in the Boeing B-52. We continue to support both through the navy and air force depot process. The F100 is a more active program - more than 5,000 engines are in use in 23 countries worldwide. The level of activity is significant. The engine is on the frontline aircraft for defence for a majority of the allies of the USA and on a good number of frontline aircraft in the US services.

We support those engines for US forces through the air force depot at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, and we augment that support with our overhaul facility in San Antonio, Texas, where we also overhaul many international engines. Several fleets of European air forces that use F100s will use our new facility in Belgium for overhauls. Our customers are happy that we have extended the F100-229 depot interval on the engine by 30%, from an eight-year on-wing time to 6,000 cycles or about 12 years for an aircraft that flies pretty regularly. That's a significant cost reduction. We're upgrading current engines to that capability with an enhancement package. Better engines; better care.

QWhat's Pratt & Whitney's primary focus going forward?

Strategically, if you look at our near- to mid-term plan, it's JSF. That's the programme the USA and nine partner countries are dedicated to. That is the production engine for Pratt & Whitney going forward, cranking up for a programme of record in 2016 when we will produce more than 120 engines.

Beyond that, what are we about? We are in the midst of demonstration activity on an advanced helicopter engine; we're working low observables for the next-generation air system, and we're readying thrust upgrades for the JSF next year as part of the spiral development for next year. We are very much into providing engines for unmanned systems. We're also very much into unmanned aircraft systems, with the recent first flight of the Predator C Avenger, which has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B turbofan. From a design standpoint, we developed a serpentine inlet and exhaust system for the Predator C with team leader General Atomics.

We're also on the Northrop Grumman X- 47B UCAS-D with the F100 engine, which will see first flight in November. After testing on the East Coast at the Patuxent River NAS and on the west coast at Edwards AFB, the navy will begin aircraft carrier trials in the November 2011 timeframe.

In the longer term our focus is on UAS platforms that are more long range and strategic, with a focus on minimising fuel burn. The same technologies we used to improve thrust to weight in the past will now work for fuel burn for a long-long loiter aircraft whose engines will have an incredible time on wing.

Q What new and interesting technologies will be available on next-generation engines?

The sensor technology and electronic controls on these newer engines have within them the ability to track and monitor engine health and inform the maintenance crews when they should take action and what action they should take. That's going to lead to a major cost savings with next generation engine. On the JSF, the crew chief will walk up to the aircraft with hardened laptop, plug in and will be told how the aircraft and engine system operated on that flight and what must be done. It's an important technology to address budget, people and critical skill sets.

There is a demand and need for more far-out technologies. We're trying to build a very broad portfolio with freethinking that dramatically changes the equation with respect to fuel burn. At the same time, we want to be able to leverage the propulsion systems we have today.

We lead the industry in developing and getting into active programmes with US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, for example the dual-mode ramjet engine for DARPA's Vulcan hypersonic research programme. There's no dearth of technical innovations here, but they're going to be balanced with the ability to derivatise what we have now.

Source: Flight Daily News