WASHINGTON — The US government continues to invest in the maintenance of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engines powering the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter. The US Department of Defense has announced a new contract for nearly $770 million. The contract was officially announced on September 23 on the website of the State Department.
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The money provided should ensure increased engine maintenance. This includes increasing the supply of spare parts as well as modules for the propulsion systems. The contract stipulates that Raytheon will also increase the quantities of spare parts for storage at the depot.
In this way, the US ensures that F-35 Lightning II operators will not be left without engine support. The operators of this fighter are the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as foreign customers.
BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that at the beginning of September, metal components of Chinese origin were found in the structure of the F135 engine. The US government was forced to temporarily halt production of the aircraft until the problem was resolved. Despite the occurrence of this problem, flights of the F-35 were not terminated, neither by American operators nor by foreign ones. However, the US commissioned an investigation into how the Chinese magnet got into the F135 engines.
Whether because of the war in Ukraine or for other reasons, the increased supply of spare parts for the F135 poses a future problem. The first signals that military manufacturers may be delaying deliveries came a day ago from the Philippines. South Korea has yet to deliver long-planned spare parts for the Philippines’ FA-50PH light attack aircraft. This forced half the Philippine Air Force to be grounded.
The F135 engine continues to compete with its competitor, the General Electric XA100. Both engines are in the running for the F-35’s next-generation engine. According to US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, the new engine “will absorb” at least 6 billion US dollars from taxpayers. This will affect the production of the F-35 and could significantly “cut” planned deliveries of the aircraft.
The expected new next-generation engine of the F-35 should solve a long-standing problem – the high cost of an hour of flight. Currently, Americans pay between $45,000 and $55,000 to fly a fighter jet for one hour in the air. The US government has long sought to cut that figure in half – at least $25,000.
According to US experts, the war in Ukraine and a possible future conflict between China and Taiwan indicate that the F-35 should have a different engine than the current F135.
Currently, the comments and opinions about which of the two engines should power the F-35 are almost split in half. Pratt & Whitney believes that the F-35 does not need a new engine, but an update of the existing one.
However, according to some experts, General Electric has developed an adaptive engine with greater thrust and speed, greater range of the fighter, and last but not least in importance [even in one of the first places] – its cooling, i.e. engine heat management, which will allow the F-35 to work much better with advanced systems integrated into the fighter [missile systems, electronic warfare systems, and guidance systems, etc.]. But it’s not clear from the remarks whether the General Electric XA100 will reduce the cost of an hour’s flight in the air.
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