Flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter remained suspended this week as U.S. military and contractor engineering teams investigated the cause of an engine fueldraulic line failure in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The fueldraulic line is part of the fuel-based hydraulic system that controls the actuators of the F-35B’s vectoring exhaust system. The grounding did not affect the F-35A and C models, respectively, the conventional takeoff and carrier variants.
Pratt & Whitney F135
Rolls-Royce has completed testing of the latest build of a research two-shaft engine core, known as “Core 3/2d,” as part of the E3E (efficiency, environment, economy) program. The core evaluation campaign ends without a previously planned endurance test, however. E3E technology forms the basis of Rolls-Royce’s Advance2 future two-shaft engine program, which targets entry into service in 2018.
Pratt & Whitney this week signed an agreement with Australia’s Broens Industries for the supply of support equipment that will be used at initial operating bases for the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter in the U.S.
Broens has designed a jack that allows the removal and maneuvering of the gearbox from under the F135 engine. The new contract is worth around $300,000 and follows a prototype award, while follow-on production contracts could reach a value of at least $7 million.
Production of Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engines that power Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter is set to peak this year at 50 units before flattening out in the coming years as the U.S. defers deliveries of the new aircraft.
Pratt & Whitney’s engines power a wide range of military aircraft in operation around the world, but 2011’s developments in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Lightning II program made the company’s year–especially as its F135 became the sole powerplant for all three Lockheed Martin JSF variants: the conventional F-35A, STOVL F-35B and carrier-based (CV) F-35C.
GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce ended their self-funded development of an alternative engine for the F-35, bowing to Pentagon opposition and looming, deep reductions in U.S. defense spending.
Pratt & Whitney is confident that the problems with the STOVL version of the F135 engine powering the F-35B have been solved. At the Paris Air Show last week, Chris Flynn, vice president of fifth-generation programs, said that solutions to the lift-fan clutch engagement, driveshaft expansion and roll-post heating were all in production.
The Pentagon issued a “stop work” order for the GE Aviation F136 engine in late March, and the Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. defense budget was finally signed into law last month, without funding for the alternative F-35 engine. But the fight for the F136 is not yet over.
The expected costs to produce and sustain the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in service are “simply unacceptable in this fiscal environment,” according to senior Pentagon officials. Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren and F-35 Joint Program Office chief Vice Admiral David Venlet told a U.S.