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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 Ranari on 7/27/2009 6:29:54 PM , Rating: 5
There are a couple of things people need to take into consideration here. I believe that the US Senate scaling back funding for the F-22 and F-35 is merely a product of our current times. However, both sides of the coin are correct here, and these things are:

1) The current wars that the United States is fighting are relatively low technology in scale. Terrorists are fighting us with ingenuity and dedication, not rail guns and super lasers. The need for high jet fighters like the F-22 and F-35 in Iraq/Afghanistan is absolutely zilch.

2) When you stop and consider, who are the players who can actually combat the United States in terms of military capability, or combined military capability? England, France, Russia, and China? What do these nations all have in common? They're all nuclear players. So the question is here, is it really necessary to develop high tech jet fighters in an environment that ensures mutually insured destruction anyways?

3) Let's take nuclear weapons out of the scenario. The earth is mostly covered by water. It was the British who stated that those who controlled the seas controls the world, and they're right. The United States commands the largest and most powerful navy in the world. We have power projection capability across all the Earth's oceans, and are the only world player capable of doing so. When China rattles their saber and threatens to retake Taiwan, it's not a single F-22 that's moved into the region, it's an entire U.S. Navy carrier group. And, well, no one wants to put a $130+ million dollar plane on a carrier cause of the risk of losing one.

But let's look at the flip side here. I think Pro-F35 individuals make solid points as well:

1) Unlike the F-22, the F-35 is an export capable aircraft. Any R&D we fund into the program is bound to return investment across the world export market; England, France, Israel, Australia, etc have all expressed interest in purchasing the fighter aircraft. Capital investment by our government may appear to be very high, but returns later on down the road will more than make up for it in investment.

2) R&D always leads to something. Even projects that might seem to go nowhere have some benefit to the overall field that is science.

3) The U.S. economy is dependent on its ability to project power. As a counter-argument to my previous #3 scenario, that Navy carrier group owes its projection capability to the fighter craft that land on it. If we were still launching Mustangs and Corsairs off our carriers, then we'd have the worlds largest, and ironically most mobile, aviation museum.

With all that said, I'm still hesitant on what direction I really feel we should go.

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