Fuel line may have damaged F135, deliveries stopped, no acceptance flights
WASHINGTON, US — The deliveries of F135 engines from the Pratt & Whitney company have been stopped. These are the propulsion engines of the F-35, and the cause is the downed newly built F-35B in Texas. The cause of the accident is unknown, but an investigation is underway. All production bases of Lockheed Martin, which are four in the USA, do not perform acceptance flights.
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The American online portal DefenseNews spread information about suspended deliveries. They have received an email with a response from the F-35 Joint Program Office [JPO]. Deliveries have been suspended since December 27th. The F-35B crashed in Texas on December 15th. Engine maker Pratt & Whitney did not respond to questions sent to their email address. The last statement from the company was last week, saying it was under investigation and could not comment.
The suspension of engine deliveries means that Lockheed Martin cannot deliver the planned 148 units of the F-35. The company says that if the incident had not happened, they would have fulfilled the plan for the year. By the date of the accident, Lockheed Martin had delivered 141 F-35s.
The JPO has restricted the flights of the operating aircraft until the cause of the accident is determined. There is no official word on the cause of the accident, but sources said last week that the cause may have been an engine fuel line that was operating under high pressure.
The US is developing a new engine for the F-35. The cost of the development is estimated at 6 billion USD. Such an amount could force the Pentagon to “cut” something from the defense budget, and rumors say that the United States may abandon the delivery of the last 70 F-35 fighter jets.
There are two candidates for a new US engine. The current F135 is from Pratt & Whitney but with significant improvements and the XA100 is from General Electric Aviation. The XA100 is General Electric Aviation’s adaptable engine that they are proposing to replace the F135. XA100 offers more jet thrust, more speed, greater range of the fighter, and last but not least in importance [even in one of the first places] – it’s cooling i.e. the engine heat control, which will allow the F-35 to operate much better with modern systems integrated into the fighter [missile systems, electronic warfare and guidance systems, etc.].
Pratt & Whitney doesn’t think so. According to them, the integration of a new engine into a structure already developed according to another engine will be a mistake that puts the functioning of the fighter in an unknown quantity. However, Pratt & Whitney also has their version of an adaptive engine – the XA101. Its performance is more than good, and the company believes that it is this engine that will power the Air Force’s next-generation fighter.
Pratt & Whitney is mostly concerned about performance issues with a new adaptive engine. The company says that if the new engine fails in the air, it means a threat to the life of the pilot and the safety of the equipment, and if the failure is found on the ground, it means taking down the entire fleet of F- 35s to fix the failure, like the Air Force and the US Navy as well as F-35 customers. It is for these reasons that Pratt & Whitney is proposing improvements to the F135, which is already a “proven operating organism” and the appearance of problems exists but will take very little time to fix, compared to a new adaptive engine.
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