Navy F135 Engine Tweaks Could Help USAF

Hartford, Conn.—A fuel efficiency push on Navy versions of the Joint Strike Fighter’s F135 engine could benefit USAF’s version as well, Pratt & Whitney next-generation fighter engine chief James Kenyon said. At a company press conference, Kenyon told Air Force Magazine that the Navy’s Fuel Burn Reduction Program, now underway, is a major effort to improve the engine by allowing it to run hotter while using five percent less fuel. Testing in 2016 is expected to certify the technology mature enough to cut it into production thereafter. “It’ll be up to the government to determine how they would use that, but it absolutely would be applicable to all three variants,” he said. Kenyon acknowledged that the push has been to keep the F135 powerplants as common as possible. “That certainly has been the strategy to date,” he said, adding it likely will be “until (it) … doesn’t make sense anymore.” The fact that “there are going to be a lot” of F-35s around the world, with a 40-year lifespan, means “the impetus to push product improvements into that engine (are) … huge, and there are a lot of opportunities to do that.” Kenyon said P&W is working on a number of technologies that could be inserted into the F135 in the future, but replacing the engine “wholesale” would likely only be pursued if “there’s a really overwhelming requirement to do that.” Technology, he said, “marches on, and that’s not true just for us, but for our adversaries.”