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UPDATED – F-35 alternate engine battle resumes


The battle over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine Program (AEP) is on again.

February 2: In US President Obama’s budget statement yesterday, the battle lines on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine Program (AEP) were once again drawn.

With Congress having battled successfully to keep the General Electric and Rolls-Royce F136 AEP alive in the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill, Obama’s defence budget proposals for 2011 will once again try to kill the F136 through “prioritising resources by ending or reducing several programmes, including the C-17 aircraft and the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine.”

The AEP has been a political battleground for the last few years, and the Obama Administration says “the reasons for cancelling the AEP in 2007 remain valid today”. It believes a second engine “is unnecessary – financial benefits, such as savings from competition, have been assessed to be small, if they exist at all”.

In a defence budget proposing a spending increase of over 3% to some $530 billion, Obama also confirmed the government’s commitment to the F-35 and P-8 Poseidon programmes. The C-17 production line is slated for closure after 223 aircraft – the Administration says it does not need more C-17s as the cost would have to be offset by the early retirement of C-5 Galaxys, which “still have, on average, 30 years of useful service life remaining”.

Also proposed for termination is the EP-X programme for a new surveillance and intelligence-gathering aircraft intended to replace the Navy’s EP-3 as the Administration believes the capability criteria are not yet sufficiently developed.

The news comes as Pratt & Whitney delivers the first F135 production engine, announced at the Singapore airshow.

Warren Boley, Vice President of F135 Engine Programs, said “The F135 engine has reached a level of maturity after 13,000 hours of successful testing, building on heritage of the proven F119 engine powering the F-22. We are committed to delivering the safest, most powerful, affordable and reliable propulsion system for the F-35.”

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