Still Holding for More C-17s and Alternate Engine

House appropriators want to continue building additional C-17 airlifters, above the 205 aircraft the Pentagon set as the end, and to keep pressing forward with a second engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, again against Pentagon desires. Three C-17s that the Administration says it doesn’t want are included in the full House Appropriations Committee’s markup of the 2010 defense spending bill. (Markup summary) However, getting these additional aircraft is by no means a sure thing, since the full House already passed a defense policy bill without additional C-17s. Ditto for the Senate Armed Services Committee in its markup. And, the 2009 war supplemental passed last month included eight C-17s not requested by the Administration, so interest in even more of the new strategic airlifters may have waned. What both authorizers and appropriators seem to agree on is the need to continue with the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 alternate engine for the F-35. The Pentagon has steadfastly disregarded past Congressional direction that it wants to have an engine competition, pitting the current JSF engine, the Pratt & Whitney F135 against the F136, which lawmakers believe will reduce cost in the long run and provide a fall back should one or the other engine develop a problem.