The most expensive weapons program on the budget
for the U.S. Armed Forces is the F-35 Lightning II program. The fighter jets
are plagued with cost overruns and issues that have lead to delays and many
fights in Washington. Despite all the turmoil, the first production F-35
Lightning II was delivered
to the USAF marking an important milestone in the program.
One of the components of the F-35 program that was
killed to save money was the development of an alternate engine for the
aircraft. The second engine was being developed by General Electric and Rolls
Royce, but he House recently voted
to pull funding.
Despite the pulled funding, the secondary engine
for the F-35 came up again in The House Armed Services Committee with a new
amendment to the 2012 defense authorization bill. The amendment didn't
approve any new funding for the second engine, but left the door open for GE
and Rolls Royce to continue the development of the second engine at their own
expense. GE announced that it would like to continue development of the engine.
The amendment dictates that the Pentagon cannot
destroy any data relating to the second engine and to support the continued
development. Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon said the development of the
second engine at no cost was a "no brainer."
Another amendment was voted down that would have
cut the buy of F-35 jets in 2012 from six aircraft to four. The Amendment was
withdrawn when it didn't have the votes to pass.
While the second engine for the F-35 is cropping
up again in the House, the DoD is also moving forward on its plan to seek a
replacement for the aging bomber fleet in the USAF toady.
The DoD has approved a USAF
Bomber Program Office that will work to get plans in place for the branch’s
next generation bomber. Air Force undersecretary Erin Conaton said,
"We've got a general mandate from the Secretary of Defense to go forward
with standing up the program office, so we're just at the beginning of that
Currently the estimate for the number of bombers
needed is 80 to 100. One of the first things that will be done is to set firmer
requirements on the number of bombers needed.
Conaton said, "Eighty to 100 is our current
best estimate of what we think we'll need, but that estimate will be refined
over time as we see the capability and what we think we can afford." She
continued, " We don't have a full life-cycle cost [for the bomber] yet.
That's the work that'll be done now by the program office as they stand up."