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Fri, Dec 30, 2005

F-35 Backup Engine Program To Be Scrapped

Aims To Save Cash In Expensive Development Program

Department of Defense representatives told Bloomberg News Friday the Pentagon plans to end a development program for a backup powerplant for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF.)

The move -- which would have to be approved by Congress -- aims to save approximately $1.7 billion through 2011, according to a DoD memo released last week. That's not a small amount of money by any means -- but it is a relative drop in the bucket compared to the $256 billion total cost of the fighter jet development program.

The backup program was initiated by Congress in 1995, according to Bloomberg, with the intent of maintaining competition and, thus, lowering costs of the Pratt & Whitney-designed powerplant intended to be the primary engines for the JSF. In a $2.2 billion deal, GE and Rolls-Royce teamed up to develop a backup powerplant -- which also would have been utilized had technical problems cropped up with the P&W F135 units (below).

Both powerplants had been praised by the F-35 program manager, Admiral Steven Enewold, according to Bloomberg. In the end, the decision simply came down to money -- ending the program now saves $408 million in FY2007, and $438 million the following year.

Every little bit helps... and in consideration of budget constraints, as well as redirection of available funds towards meeting the needs of troops on the ground, the savings should make the hugely-expensive JSF a little more palatable to congressional leaders.

Lockheed-Martin is the primary contractor on the F-35 program, and as was reported in Aero-News is nearing completion of the first prototype F-35 in Fort Worth, TX.

FMI: www.lockheedmartin.com

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