My colleagues, Guy Norris and Graham Warwick, recently wrote about the controversy surrounding a second engine option for the Joint Strike Fighter. You can read their latest here. According to the JSF's program chief, funding development for a second engine would cut production by dozens of aircraft.
I obtained a memo to the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Subcommittee on May 18, with more details for the committee members about that second engine option. Here's some of what was included in the document:
The alternative/competitive engine program was identified by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), for Fiscal 2010, as a program ripe for termination. Among OMB's justifications: "financial benefits, such as savings from competition, have been assessed to be small, if they exist at all, because of the high cost of developing, producing and maintaining a second engine. The reasons for canceling the Alternate Engine Program in 2007 remain valid today."
So why is Congress pushing for an alternate powerplant? In the subcommittee memo, it says that a joint hearing (seapower and expeditionary forces along with air and land forces subcommittees) on March 22, 2007 heard testimony from DOD, the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Government Accountability Office about the alternate engine program. "The results of these studies were, in the aggregate, inconclusive." However, the memo continues, "all studies identified significant, non-financial factors of a two-engine competitive program, which includes: better engine performance, improved contractor responsiveness, a more robust industrial base, increased engine reliability and improved operational readiness."
The memo also notes that in March 2008, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff "offered personal support for a competitive JSF engine, citing reliability and redundancy as important factors." But that doesn't hold much water, since Michael Wynne and "Buzz" Moseley are gone now.
Congress has also cited repeated problems in the F135 program versus what they see as on-track design maturity of the F136. "While some weight and affordability challenges exist, the program manger reported that plans have been defined for the F136 engine to meet targets."
Lawmakers may end up getting their way on having a second engine - but at what cost to the already very expensive JSF program?