Development of General Electric and Rolls-Royce's F136 alternative engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is back on schedule for 2004. This follows the restoration of budget funding that had been stripped from the programme and had threatened to delay its entry into service by up to two years after Pratt & Whitney's F135 service introduction, writes Guy Norris.

The F136 engine effort was awarded $52.8 million in the 2004 defence budget, with an additional $14 million "plus-up" funding for risk-reduction work. "It leaves us in good shape for next year," says GE JSF programme general manager Bob Griswold, who has led urgent lobbying efforts to have $56 million of threatened funding restored. Without the missing 2004 funding, the alternate engine system development and demonstration (SDD) phase would have been delayed by one year, and the F136's availability by two years.

Programme officials say lobbying efforts were bolstered by international support from several countries including Australia, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, which pressed the JSF programme office (JPO) to maintain a choice.

The threat over the F136 emerged earlier this year when the JPO confirmed a $511 million "inflation cut" would have to be made to the JSF between 2004 and 2009, of which $440 million was to be taken from the alternative engine effort.

Hardware for the first two test F136 engines is being assembled in Evendale, Ohio, under the $411 million Phase 3 pre-SDD contract. Initial runs are set for around July 2004.

Source: Flight International