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  • Oh No, Not This Again
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 3:32 AM on Nov 29, 2010

    Pratt & Whitney has been working very hard to persuade people that it won a competition to power the F-35 and that the General Electric/Rolls Royce F136 exists only because Congress forced the Pentagon to fund it. So many people have repeated it that it has acquired a life of its own, and it may help tip the balance in a lame-duck session of Congress dominated by the economy.

    Gordon England, once a deputy defense secretary and before then Navy secretary, perpetuates the message in a new Viewpoint op-ed in the latest Aviation Week & Space Technology. Below I offer counterpoints to some of England's assertions.

    "The F-35 second engine was not included in the Defense Department plan during or before my tenure as deputy secretary," England writes. However, England took over that office in May 2005, at which time both engines were integral parts of the JSF program of record and had been so for a decade.

    It was not until the submission of the Fiscal 2007 budget, early in 2006, that the Pentagon excluded the second engine from the budget, and even in that year the Pentagon offered very little resistance to its reinstatement by lawmakers at the time.

    "The competition for the F-35 is over. The F135 engine, built by Pratt & Whitney, was selected by both Boeing and Lockheed Martin during the prime aircraft contractor competition," England continues. Again, this is unclear because there were two competitions in the JSF program - one for the concept demonstration aircraft (CDA) program in 1996 and one for the systems development and demonstration (SDD) phase in 2001.

    Regardless, it is simply wrong to state that Boeing and Lockheed Martin selected the engine for the SDD phase, because they had no option in the matter. The Pentagon had already started funding both the F135 and F136 under the leader-follower competitive program that had been officially adopted five years earlier.

    The CDA stage was a different matter. Required to perform ground tests and provide first-line and spare engines for two prototype aircraft each, the CDA competitors chose Pratt & Whitney's F119 as the basis for their prototype engines (which were not F135s) because it was the only engine that met their needs and was available from an active assembly line. There is no record I know of that GE bids were invited or evaluated or that any competition took place.

    And finally, again, the dual-track program was in place before source selection. In March 1996 - the month that the CDA RFP was issued - the JSF office announced that it was issuing a contract to GE to continue development of a competitive engine. Indeed, during 1995-95, the program leaders decided instead that competition would take place throughout the program, in the production stage.

    See an older post here, with supporting documentation.

    Tags: ar99, jsf, tacair, f135, f136

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