GE, Rolls announce end to engine development

GE, Rolls announce end to engine development

GE and Rolls-Royce’s “alternate engine” for the F-35 has looked dead for some time, but the corpse stopped twitching on Friday.

The companies announced they’re abandoning their effort to try to pay out of their own pockets to continue work on the engine, casting the move as a blow for “acquisition reform,” but prudent in light of “continued uncertainty” in the F-35 program.

Take a look at the full text of their announcement:


The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team (FET) has reached the decision to discontinue self-funded development of the F136 engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) beyond 2011. The decision, reached jointly by GE and Rolls-Royce leadership, recognizes the continued uncertainty in the development and production schedules for the JSF Program.

“GE and Rolls-Royce are proud of our technology advancements and accomplishments on the F136,” said Dan McCormick, President of the FET. “However, difficult circumstances are converging that impact the potential benefit of an F136 self-funded development effort.”

With the F136 engine development almost 80 percent complete, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) terminated the program in April of this year. Following termination, the GE Rolls-Royce FET had offered to self-fund F136 development through fiscal year 2012, but will now end its development work. The FET will continue to fulfill its termination responsibilities with the federal government.

For 15 years, the FET has developed a competitive fighter engine for JSF with the world’s most advanced propulsion technologies, including numerous patented technologies from both companies. Before the program was terminated, six F136 development engines had accumulated more than 1,200 hours of testing since early 2009. The FET consistently delivered on cost and on schedule, and was rewarded with high marks by the DoD in a successful joint venture between GE and Rolls-Royce.

Throughout the F136 program, GE and Rolls-Royce have been leading advocates of defense acquisition reform – offering unique and aggressive fixed-price proposals for F136 production engines for the JSF program. “GE and Rolls-Royce are deeply grateful to our many Congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle over these many years as well as the military experts who have supported competing engines for JSF,” said McCormick. “We do not waver in our belief that competition is central to meaningful defense acquisition reform.”

DepSecDef Ash Carter reportedly got a formal pitch from GE and Rolls about self-funding earlier this fall, but clearly he did not find it compelling. DoD would have had to let the companies use some government testing facilities and equipment to carry on their work, even as they theoretically footed the bill, and Pentagon officials’ skepticism about the whole endeavor never really abated.

Competition is great, Carter told House lawmakers, in so many words — but it’s supposed to save money, not cost money. Letting GE and Rolls-Royce continue development on their own dime eventually would have meant bills for a program the Pentagon hated, and that was a non-starter going into the big crunch. So the companies are cutting their losses.

There are some loose ends and unanswered questions, though. How many special provisions from GE and Rolls’ congressional allies have made their way into the defense legislation of the past few years? There was talk of requiring in law that DoD always make testing facilities available to competing engine teams, and requiring “competition” in selecting the engines for the Air Force’s next-generation bomber. How much became real? Will those chickens come home to roost someday? It was hard to know immediately Friday how much of a legacy the F136 leaves behind after all the money and effort spent trying to sustain it.

Join the Conversation

Everywhere you look people are making alternative plans to the F-35. Rolls and GE’s announcement that they don’t think the F-35 production will amount to much is just the latest in a long line of people voting with their feet and wallet against the F-35.

What? Nearly 3,000 F-35’s and spares parts for 25 years. Potential to get half that business, which may amount to $50 billion, and you don’t want to play? The only decision General Electric needs to make is to fire their current leadership and get an aggressive team in place. How else will they survive the coming budget wars if they don’t keep up the attack?

It would be costly to develop something that hasn’t been perfected yet. Technology is shared and should be adopted and produce when it’s already known.

Barack is looking to cut $1.4 trillion from the budget. The F-35 is a good place to start. Lets see $625 billion
for 128 copies?!? That is about $4 billion per copy. Based on the fact that an aircraft only lasts about 10 years in the military, and everything else is supported by a fixed base operator Gates could have built 27 super hubs for the same cost. In retrospect the U.S could build 1 Super Carriers for the cost of 2 F-35’s. Back in the day Lockheed charged $1 million for each copy of the F-104 and there wasn’t any down payment.
I could go on, but I believe that the criminal affect is grose misuse of government funding/ misuse of power/
subversion/ fraud, and treason. Further — the rest of the 1.4 trillion could be gained by dismantling Home Land Security.

LOL.

Except that there ISN’T potential to get ANY of that business right now. The USAF, USN & USMC don’t want the F136 & nobody else is going to fit the bill for any engine other than what the USAF, USN & USMC will be flying.

RR & GE should have forgetten about the F136 long ago & concentrated on the ADaptive Versatile ENgine Technology (ADVENT) program for F-35 Block 6 propulsion improvements.

The problem is you need a baseline propulsion system (F136) to incorporate your ADVENT technologies into — I can’t see GE/RR developing technologies to put into the PW F135

Sir,
put the bong down and back away slowly.
(somebody, get the net — quick!)

Frankly I am not sure that the US and it allies can afford the F35 at all, It was to be the cheaper version of the 2 level fighter system but at $111M per plane is it really affordable.

As Im sure you have noticed, those dollars just arent what they used to be. In 1944, when the P-51 was a front line fighter, its average fly away cost was $51,572 brand spanking new from the factory. Today, a flyable 1944-vintage P-51 goes about $2m on the warplanes market! In 1944, and perhaps even 20 years ago when the F-35 was in gestation, a $111M fighter would have been considered ridiculous. With todays dollars.… . Hmmmmm.

That is of course the problem that the F-35 program has got to address over the next few months..… For all of the advantages that some might see in the F-35, can even the advocates support it in light of the budget issues?.… Lets all hope that those in a position to know the correct answer, which ever answer that might be, and independent of the various, generally ill-informed but vociferously championed opinions expressed here, have the intestinal fortitude to make it so.

Not true. The PEO and Program Office were strong advocates of continued competion up until a couple of years ago when it was one of the underlying reasons why SECDEF fired the then-PEO

Total fabrication on your part. GE/RR’s decision was not because there would not be a substantial market for F-35’s, it was about there not being a substantial market for THEIR engine. The chief customer — DoD had hung their hat on having just ONE engine supplier and the GE/RR team was not the chosen supplier.

The Program Office was a advocate of the competition until the bean counters said it was too costly

People, it was a nice ride while it lasted. GE/RR did everything they could to keep the F136 alive; it would have been a great engine. Bottom line is this, the support was lost, the battles within Congress and the Senate were ruthless, the then SECDEF had an issue with the F136 and NO ONE was going to challenge him because they would get fired on the spot. Sure, the F136 would have introduced lower “overall” costs by GE/RR willing to pay a large amount of the qualification bill, but the economy is on its you know what, defense spending is going to get cut, the F35 in general is a cost overrun out of control and its not over yet. The ultimate future of this program is anyones guess and it would not suprise me if Italy drops out and the STOVL goes away. There are times when you just have to do whats smart for the business and the customer.….I applaud GE/RR making the decision they did when they did. There a brighter horizons around the corner.…I assure you of this.

ADaptive Versatile ENgine Technology (ADVENT) is a completely separate program & is NOT based on the F136.

A lot of people/groups were advocates of the F136 but NONE are going to fit the bill to continue it since the USAF, USN & USMC determined they were not going to.

The issue the SECDEF had with the F136 was that it was not needed & had to be cut to pay for other things.

No the F136 would NOT have introduced lower “overall” costs & GE/RR weren’t willing to pay squat — ‘just’ $100 million (vs the $500 million-$1 billion a year the USG paid) for 1–2 years (basically enough to keep the project alive but not enough to make any significant progress) in the hopes that the USG would reinstate funding.

The F-35 is NOT a cost overrun out of control.

pfcem…come on, you have been around long enough to know the F35 is out of control. Don’t insult your own intelligence.

Quite the opposite. I have been around long enough to know that the F-35 is NOT out of control. In fact it is doing amazingly well under the circumstances. Sure things could be better but any ignoranus who thinks the F-35 is out of control does not have the faintest idea what they are talking about.

Just to give one very recent example of how NOT out of control the program is…the projected 7% cost overrun on LRIP 4 (which is DOWN from the 11–15% for LRIP 1–3) is roughly the same amount offered by LM in its original LRIP 4 proposal.

If your an american, produce it for your country’s security and self defense. Otherwise migrate in China.

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