GE is challenging Pratt & Whitney’s exclusive engine deal for the F-35 with a proposal to scrap the current Pratt engine in favor of a clean sheet design from GE. The existing engines have been troublesome for operators and Pratt says it can upgrade all the existing engines for $2.5 billion. GE has launched a massive lobbying effort to try to convince lawmakers that investing more in the current engine would be throwing good money after bad. Instead, GE is proposing Congress give it $6 billion to deliver a shiny new design it says will deliver “revolutionary capabilities” and introduce competition into the program as a hedge against cost overruns.
Pratt has launched its own counteroffensive, saying GE’s plan would be a waste of money and it’s already tooling up to make changes to the core of the engine that will allow it to deliver the power needed for new electronics and other systems in the Block 4 version of the plane. Pratt says the upgrade is part of the normal evolution of aircraft programs and its fix is a faster and much less expensive solution.
Meanwhile, deliveries of the F-35 are set to resume two months after a vibration issue that cracked a fuel tube in an engine led to the loss of an F-35B during an acceptance flight at the Fort Worth factory. A video of the bucking airplane and subsequent zero-zero ejection of the pilot was widely distributed. The incident halted deliveries for two months. “After thorough review, we can confidently say there were no quality issues with the [engine] fuel tube that fractured,” Jen Latka, vice president of the F135 program for Pratt & Whitney told DefenseNews. “We are dealing with a rare systems phenomenon involving harmonic resonance.”
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