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GE/Rolls-Royce F136 JSF engine in jeopardy

Purse strings in Washington are tighter than they have been in years meaning funds for some defense projects are harder to get.

The Senate has voted for an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that could eventually block the proposed second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: the F136 from General Electric/Rolls-Royce. Aviation Week reports that Congress has earmarked unrequested funds for the F136, but the Senate adopted the amendment on July 23 that would require proof that the F136 engine would cut costs for the program overall. The program currently relies on the F135 engine from Pratt & Whitney.

The amendment was written by Sen. Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut who said, "The Department of Defense has long said that it neither wants nor intends to use an engine other than the one currently produced by Pratt & Whitney."

AviationWeek reports that Lieberman's claims are not entirely accurate. The Pentagon and Air force Leadership have been rejecting calls for the F136 alternative engine, but program leaders for the JSF have stressed that an alternative engine isn’t a bad idea. The bill will have to be amended in the House version if the F136 engine is to continue to be an option. Money for the F136 has been earmarked already in the House's defense appropriations bill.

GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said, "The funding battle over the GE Rolls-Royce F136 fighter engine for the JSF is far from over. The argument for an engine competition for the JSF, the largest fighter program in US history, is simply too compelling."

President Obama has threatened to veto a bill that comes to him promoting a second engine with a chance of disrupting the program. The Senate has already voted against more funds for the F-22 Raptor program.

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RE: What's that sound I hear?
By teldar on 7/27/2009 2:37:01 PM , Rating: 2
While I cannot argue against the lack of 'morals' (as seen from the point of view of the taxpayer and someone who has so far stuck to the idea of "only buying what you can pay for") on the part of the large corporations, I do have an issue with something here.

I don't believe they are pushing up the cost for no reason. One of the things about the JSF is its flexibility. It can be remade and upgraded almost continuously. I believe this is what is happening. Instead of building them all exactly the same, I would believe part of what is happening is the following:
"We now have the technology available to do THIS. Isn't THIS much more cool than THAT? And it will allow the pilots and planes to do WHATEVER much much better. Unfortunately THIS is more expensive than THAT was because THAT is older technology."

An example of this being good, however, in my opinion, were the subs which were commissioned to be built by the Navy. The initial contract was made in the early 70's but they were not all built until the 80's. But the government was tired of being screwed by being nickle-and-dimed. So they made the contract bulletproof about how the subs were made. They required particular models and specs of all the electronic hardware.
The result? We got subs made in the 80's with 60's technology. The after-result? The Navy had all the old garbage ripped out and installed newer shtuff. And spent another pile of cash in the process.

The upshot?

I'm all for flexible construction contracts. They'll eventually save money even though they may cost more short term.

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