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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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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.

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