The Day of the Alternate Engine?

According to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), there will be an alternate engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. In the words of the powerful defense appropriations panel chairman: “Both the House and the Senate feel very strongly about the alternative engine. I can remember years ago when Pratt & Whitney used to have big problems with one of their engines. We put [General Electric] engines in, and that saved the day. We had an alternative to it. … I know your answer was, ‘Well, it comes out of production.’ Well, that’s not the point.” The point, continued Murtha during a March 25 hearing on combat aircraft acquisition, is that lawmakers believe a second engine will be “cost effective” given the long run expected for the F-35. (Pratt & Whitney is producing the JSF engine, with GE has been pursuing an alternate per Congressional insistence over Pentagon objections.) Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, USAF’s military acquisition deputy, had earlier reiterated the Pentagon position that the “business case analysis” on an alternate engine “shows that we would not be saving money” primarily because its continued development expense would come out of production funds. However, Murtha laid down a bottom line: “We expect the Air Force to eventually build this alternative engine.”