Alternative JSF powerplant faces axe in 2007 budget

Several US lawmakers have launched a campaign to restore funds for the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine that now faces a termination threat, but still unclear is the impact of the budget cut on the international partnership developing the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The Bush administration submitted a fiscal year 2007 budget proposal to Congress on 6 February that includes no funds for the F136, the planned alternative to the baseline Pratt & Whitney F135 engine for the F-35. But the JSF joint programme office has not received guidance to terminate the $2.47 billion F136 system development and demonstration contract, and work is continuing.

Opposition to the proposal is being led in the Senate by the Ohio delegation. Reports say Republican senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich wrote to the armed services committee voicing opposition to the move. The Pentagon has to clear all termination proposals through Congress, which successfully overturned several such requests during last year’s budget cycle.

Debate on the fate of the F136 comes as the nine-nation JSF’s international partnership faces a critical period. In December, the team concluded preliminary negotiations on a follow-on agreement for the F-35’s production, sustainment and follow-on development phase. The UK Ministry of Defence and Prime Minister Tony Blair have made the F136’s survival a public issue with the Bush administration, placing further strain on a partnership already unsettled by UK industry’s vocal disappointment over the limits of the USA’s technology-transfer rules.

The loss of the F136 deal would be a blow for R-R. It supplies the vertical exhaust nozzle and lift fan system for the short-take-off and vertical-landing variant of the F135, but the F136 promises far greater sales with all three variants.


Source: Flight International