In his remarks introducing President Obama’s $671 billion defense budget request for Fiscal 2012, Defense Secretary Robert Gates once again came out swinging against the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine for the F-35 strike fighter. Calling the effort an “unnecessary and extravagant expense” in fiscally challenging times, Gates said he has reluctantly approved continued funding for the engine on a month-to-month basis, with $28 million allocated for it per month. This approach is meant to give Congress the opportunity to resolve the matter as part of the debate surrounding the continuing resolution for Fiscal 2011. When the current CR expires, Gates said, he would examine “all available legal options to close down this program,” saying the effort would be a waste of approximately $3 billion in funding needed for other priorities. “My hope is there will be a debate about this on the floor of the House this week” so that members will address the matter directly, particularly new members interested in fiscal responsibility, he said. Gates favors moving ahead solely with Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine to power the F-35. (Gates transcript)
The Collaborative Combat Aircraft will be operational in the late 2020s, several years before the Next-Generation Air Dominance family of systems, Air Force officials told the House Armed Services tactical aviation panel. The CCAs will first be “shooters,” then electronic warfare platforms, then sensors, in that order, they added.