& Whitney (P&W) has announced that it has reached a new handshake
agreement with the military for a fourth batch of low production rate F135
engines. These engines power the F-35 aircraft in various forms. The fourth
batch of engines will reportedly have a price of 16%
less than the previous batches. Pratt & Whitney military engines Chief
Warren Boley has noted that P&W is working to get the cost per engine down
to about $10 million.
He also noted that the previously reported issue with the engines described as
"screech" had been solved and that all new engines would have the fix
applied on the assembly line and that the engines already in the field could
have the fix installed easily in depot. Boley also stated that all three of the
engine versions have received the Initial Service Release that certifies
development is complete and so far, the engines have shown 99% reliability.
The most problem-prone version of the F-35 that uses these engines has been the F-35B and
Boley noted that it had a mission readiness of 98% for the propulsion system.
The F-22 uses the F119 engine and it by comparison has a reliability rating of
P&W is still working to improve the reliability of the F135 engine and
improvements will be applied to the sixth and seventh production batches of the
engine. Changes are minor according to Boley and will be able to be applied in
the field to the existing aircraft.
military aviation world the more off the shelf parts you can incorporate into a
new aircraft design, the cheaper the aircraft will be, the faster it can be
fielded, and the more reliable the aircraft is in general. When the Air Force
announced that it was lowering expectations for a new long-range bomber, the
need for off the shelf parts was noted.
The USAF vision
for a new bomber could include the engines
used in the F-35 fighters according to Boley. He noted that if the
bomber program is not as ambitious as stated by the Air Force the F135 engines
could be used in the aircraft and that they would "most definitely"
be suitable for a long endurance aircraft.
Boley said, "So the future bomber may be much more off the shelf, much
more proven technology, it may be a subsonic bomber, it may use a proven [F-35
Pratt and Whitney] F-135."
Defense News notes that previously officials familiar with
long-range strike aircraft had said that the F119 engine from the F-22 and the
F135 engine from the F-35 burned fuel too quickly for a long-range aircraft.
P&W is also working on a new engine called the PW9000 that uses the
low-pressure compressor from the F135 mated to a core from the geared turbo
fan. This engine could possibly be used on the Navy Unmanned Carrier Launch
Surveillance and Strike aircraft according to Boley.
quote: Boley said, "So the future bomber may be much more off the shelf, much more proven technology, it may be a subsonic bomber,
quote: Now a B-2 or X-47B on the other hand you could probably fly in and bomb whatever you wanted and get out before they realised what hit them.
quote: If they want a cheap off the shelf replacement, how about a converted Boeing 767 as the next bomb truck.
quote: But the main reason for meeting the press seems to have been to get out ahead of the news that, as part of the F-35 development replan within the Pentagon's 2012 budget, Pratt will receive contracts totalling about a billion dollars for more engines, flight-test support and component improvements.
quote: Of the billion, about $600 million will pay for extra engines and other resources to support flight testing of the F-35, which will now continue to October 2016. Pratt's current contract ends in 2013, said Boley, so more money is needed to support another three years of flight test. The remaining $400 million or so will pay for a "component improvement program [CIP]-like" effort to improve the performance and durability of the F135. This is certain to have GE/Rolls and opponents of the F-35 rubbing their hands and crying "redesign!"