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USAF pilots will start flight training with F-35 this year
House vote could hack $450 million set aside for development of alternative F-35 engine from budget

The U.S. military has been working on the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history for years now. That program is the F-35 Lighting II (Joint Strike Fighter) that will see action eventually in all branches of the U.S. military and will find its way to allied nations as well. The F-35 program has had more than its share of setbacks, and not all of those setbacks were issues with the aircraft. Many of the setbacks have come at the hands of lawmakers and budget cuts.

The House is set to vote on a critical funding bill that has serious implications on the future of the F-35 program. The budget has a provision in it for the continued development and deployment of an alternative engine for the F-35 to go along side the Pratt & Whitney F135 jet engine. The alternative engine is from GE and Rolls Royce and will be built in Ohio, and Indiana. The F135 engine is constructed in Florida and Texas. The engine vote is under pressure because many lawmakers in the House feel that adding a second engine to the program wastes taxpayer money and the House is looking to pare all it can from the budget for the year.

The spending measure the House is voting on has $450 million set aside for the GE and Rolls-Royce engine. The thing that has defense contractors nervous is that many of the House lawmakers are in their freshman terms and haven’t yet voted on the program. That means where the votes will lie on the second engine are more unknown than in previous votes.

Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill, in his first term, said, "We have to step forward, we have to cut back on areas, and this is an area that the secretary of defense said we need to cut back on."

Debate on the bill is expected to continue all week and cuts on the alternative F-35 engine aren’t the only things on the chopping block as the House looks to cut billions from the budget. The cuts will also affect the Peace Corps, the EPA, and many more programs that currently receive federal funding. The White House has already warned the House that it would mount "strong opposition" to legislation that would undermine core government functions and investments in job growth.

While the future of the alternative F-35 engine in question, the F-35 program itself moves on. The Air Force has announced that it will begin to train instructor pilots on the F-35 before the end of 2011. The first F-35 aircraft will be delivered to the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base. The first round of aircraft will be the F-35A conventional take off and landing versions and 20 of the jets are expected in the first round of deliveries.

Vice Adm. Dave Venlet said, "We're going to put them in the hands of the fleet and the Air Force is going to be operating [Conventional take-off and landing aircraft] in training at Eglin before the year ends."

Defense News notes that it is uncommon for aircraft to be delivered to line pilots before formal operational testing is completed. However, a shortened informal test will be conducted before the 33rd pilots take delivery of the aircraft. Venlet said, "It's not a full operational test, it doesn't resolve any measures of effectiveness."

Venlet also noted that he expects the F-35B STOVL aircraft will have sea-trials with the Marine Corps this fall. The F-35B has been the most trouble prone of all the aircraft and has been put on a probationary status though the aircraft has made successful vertical test landings.

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RE: Memory Anyone?
By sorry dog on 2/18/2011 11:44:25 AM , Rating: 2
The F135 has not shown any weaknesses compared to the TF30. Also remember that the TF30 was originally developed for the F-111 A and B and that it was the first generation of afterburning turbofans. In the F-111 it ended up performing OK with modified intake ducts, and since F-111's usually weren't asked to perform as aggressive maneuvers as F14's.

The only real benefits of the F136 is a slightly greater proposed thrust potential, an alternative development platform for future platforms (like next-gen bomber), and a few more redundant jobs in certain areas. GE argument of reduced risk if the F135 development is starting to look like rubbish. The F135 is one of the few parts of the F35 program that is meeting goals and cost projections.

The downside is a few billion that would have to be siphoned from other program or other parts of the F35 project, and maintenance scheduling and supply would become at least 4 times more complex.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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