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F-35B propulsion system has 98% reliability
JSF's F135 engine gets 16% cheaper

Pratt & 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 98.5%.

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.


In the 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.

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By kattanna on 2/11/2011 11:10:24 AM , Rating: 3
Boley said, "So the future bomber may be much more off the shelf, much more proven technology, it may be a subsonic bomber,

so if they are wanting a more "off the shelf" type of subsonic bomber..why are we not simply upgrading the b-52?

i understand lots of them currently in service are older then the pilots, hehe, but why cant new airframes be made? you dont get any more "proven" and "off the shelf" then them

RE: question
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 2/11/2011 11:17:33 AM , Rating: 2
Probably because of their radar cross-section.

RE: question
By gamerk2 on 2/11/11, Rating: -1
RE: question
By Azsen on 2/11/2011 7:03:31 PM , Rating: 5
Iraq air defense was also down in the initial days of the war, you can fly 100 Boeing 747s over and they couldn't do anything about it. Lets say you want to attack North Korea with B-52s/B-1s there's no way you're going to use them in the initial strike, they'll see you coming and get advanced warning to get their air-defense on alert and fighters in the air. You need air superiority for these aircraft to be useful. 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.

RE: question
By AssBall on 2/12/2011 4:10:42 PM , Rating: 2
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.

While I agree with what you say, why not just make cheap guided ordinance instead? Make a cheap cruise missile with more fuel and a dude driving it from the cruiser or sub, basically. Put a cumputer, radar, camera, and radar detection, and some high G wings on. Not like ICBM scale, maybe something that is reusable assuming the target had to be aborted. It would get there even faster than planes, be more maneuverable, and be harder to counter. Could take out all the weight of human interface electronics and hard points, armor, landing gear(recover with a chute), etc.

Just a thought. Then all you need is air defense systems for your own forces, no pricey bombers. It would be interesting to see the development and maintenance cost of maintaining B2 fleet compared with something along these lines.

Our computer guided guided Tomahawks were pretty accurate in Desert Storm (esp compared to rofl SCUD) and that was 20 years ago computer tech.

RE: question
By Rage2565 on 2/12/2011 9:27:23 AM , Rating: 2
I've worked B-1s and you obviously are not in the aircraft maintenance field. Those bombers take an enormous amount of manpower to generate sorties compared to other aircraft in our inventory. I love the B-1b, amazing aircraft but their age is showing. We need a new bomber, hopefully based off of the b-1b.

RE: question
By JonnyDough on 2/13/2011 4:38:09 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the age of the A-10. They're being canabilized like crazy. I'm a C-27 crew chief in training at Sheppard. :)

RE: question
By JediJeb on 2/13/2011 10:16:06 AM , Rating: 2
I remember back at around the time the first Iraq war began the USAF was wanting to retire the A-10 and use the F-16 to take over it's duties. That would be like asking a Forumla 1 race car to replace a Humvee.

The A-10 is a wonderful aircraft and perfectly suited to its role, I hope when they do replace it they will put some effort into making a newer version of it instead of just trying to throw what they have into a role only a specialized aircraft like the A-10 is suited for.

RE: question
By Manch on 2/14/2011 11:14:09 AM , Rating: 2
You mean like they're doing now with the F-35? That's supposed to be the replacement. Thye've also talked about using F-16's. Eitehr choice is just stupid. We need a next gen A-10.

RE: question
By EJ257 on 2/11/2011 11:45:10 AM , Rating: 2
The way I understand it the assembly rigs and tools to make the various parts for the B-52 no longer exists. Whatever is flying today is doing so from existing caches of spares left over from the old days. The fleet of B-52s flying today is a lot smaller than it once was so those spares could probably last until the 2040s. If they want a cheap off the shelf replacement, how about a converted Boeing 767 as the next bomb truck. It will have a lot of common parts with the tanker 767. They could send in the B-2s, F-22s, F-35s and A-47s (X-47's eventual designation?) first day of the war to knock back the enemy's air defense and then send in the B-767 to bomb the living daylights out of them.

RE: question
By Solandri on 2/11/2011 6:07:44 PM , Rating: 2
If they want a cheap off the shelf replacement, how about a converted Boeing 767 as the next bomb truck.

Normally I'm all for using commercial off-the-shelf parts to cut costs. But using a commercial airframe to drop ordinance... No. Just no. You don't want to go there. The possibility of a commercial aircraft being shot down because someone though it was a military threat... You do not want to go there.

RE: question
By psychmike on 2/11/2011 6:19:54 PM , Rating: 2
The Navy's new Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the P-8 Poseidon, is based on the Boeing 737 airframe.

RE: question
By Jeffk464 on 2/11/2011 11:24:50 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget the commercial re-purposed planes used as air re-fuelers. Those are definitely targets an adversary would want to take down. AWACS are based on a Boeing 707 and for sure that is about the number one target any adversary would want to get rid of.

RE: question
By JediJeb on 2/13/2011 10:19:49 AM , Rating: 2
Also the new flying laser platform is a 747, if it is ever deployed that would be another primary target of interest.

RE: question
By knutjb on 2/12/2011 9:06:08 PM , Rating: 4
To point out the obvious, g-loading. Commercial aircraft will lose their wings attempting a B-1B like evasive maneuver. Delivering bombs has little in common with Fedex, other than getting it there on time.

The other commercial based military aircraft are used in entirely different roles, all low g.

All the stuff to make military aircraft exists, the cost of making a new B-52 doesn't make any sense. Most of the strategic reserve B-52s are now beer cans. As much as I like the B-1 that doesn't make sense either. Why would you try to make a new ENIAC with the advanced tech is currently on the shelf? (this doesn't apply to commercial jets)

RE: question
By DougF on 2/11/2011 2:44:36 PM , Rating: 4
What we're (finally) seeing is a reduction in initial requirements for new weapon systems. For too long, the US (all services) has tried to get a 100% solution in the very first item off the assembly line. This drags out designs, forces redesigns when combatant commanders change requirements, drags out testing, etc. The USAF is moving to a "75% solution" model to save time and money. This means more off-the shelf-solutions, or at least using new combinations of current off-the-shelf components. When the model A is proven to work, THEN worry about what should be in model B, model C, etc, to get the last 25% solution.

As for upgrading the B-52 (to get to your question), the airframes are just too old and would cost way too much to keep going. Second, the avionics is old and needs complete rewiring to handle the data loads new weapons require (GPS, target, route, etc).

As for building new B-52s, the other reader is correct, the assembly jigs are long de-mil'd, and we're scavenging off the carcasses for major structural parts. The vast majority of B-52s are now probably in your razors...

As for using "bomb trucks" like the B-767, the idea of air dominance (complete control of the airspace) is nice, but probably not workable for future engagements. We only have a small number of F-22s, so any air superiority (localized control, but probably contested) will likely be temporary, especially against a modern air defense system. We're going to need stealty(er) platforms than the B-52 or B-767 just to ingress enemy airspace, let alone survive there for any length of time or egress successfully. Lastly, the 767 airframe is not designed to carry ordnance, and would require a complete re-design of major structural components to accomplish such a mission change.

RE: question
By headbox on 2/12/2011 12:55:15 AM , Rating: 2
I personally know a B-52 pilot who is now a remote drone pilot.

RE: question
By ekv on 2/12/11, Rating: -1
RE: question
By Jeffk464 on 2/14/2011 1:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
Not a good move for when he gets out, he isn't building up flight hours anymore.

RE: question
By JonnyDough on 2/13/2011 4:41:32 AM , Rating: 1
Model? I think you mean design series.

RE: question
By DougF on 2/14/2011 11:13:21 AM , Rating: 2
I was trying to keep it simple, but you are correct, it would be the next in the series, as the mission designator and design number would stay the same.

RE: question
By Tabinium on 2/11/2011 2:44:53 PM , Rating: 2
I'm assuming your comment was somewhat of a joke, but it's analogous to saying we should stop development of new automoblies and retool all manufacturing facilities to reproduce the 60s VW bug. They were fast, powerful, handled well, and protected its occupants from impacts!

RE: question
By tech329 on 2/11/2011 8:17:18 PM , Rating: 2
Nobody would even think of building a B-52 today. It would mean disregarding much of what has been learned in the last five decades about aviation, manufacturing and materials technology. I was in the USAF back then and went on to a career in aviation manufacturing afterward at a major aircraft manufacturer. There is no way you can turn back the clock on time. It can't be done.

RE: question
By drewsup on 2/12/2011 5:48:41 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhhm because the B52 is almost 65 years years old! NO airframe that big is going to last much longer, the vibration/frame deterioration is taking it's toll, hell we have F15's that have snapped their titanium backbones already, and they are 30 years newer.
The future is unmanned stealth drones, like it or not. We may always need some form of fast, low flying, manned bomber, but if you can launch 20 drones, carrying the same payload as a big bomber, and not risk the pilots lives, it's kind of a no-brainer. Plus, if you send in a few heavy bombers, if you lose 1 or 2 , that's a big hit in your delivery, you can afford to lose a few drones, as long as 80% get by a through. Kind of the death by a thousand cuts scenario.

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