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P&W Receives JSF Engine Contract

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is produced by Lockheed Martin (LMT) but the engine for the advanced tactical aircraft comes from United Technologies (UTX) Pratt & Whitney. As with many other aircraft programs the engine is procured under a separate contract and then provided to the aircraft manufacturer. This means as aircraft options are executed another contract action must take place for the engines.

P&W received their contract recently to support the most recent JSF order. This contract will be for 32 more F135 engines and is the 5th order so far to match the first 5 Low Rate buys of the F-35. No value was given but earlier estimates were of a cost that was close to $40 million per unit.

For several years Congress funded against DoD wishes another engine development program as risk reduction. This was with General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce (RR) and several hundred million dollars was given to them for the F136 engine. The idea was to have enough production capability or maintain schedule if there were issues with the primary F135 engine. In the first Obama administration this was a program that was terminated.

The JSF program continues to gain momentum as more are produced, more training conducted and development continues. It still is several years behind its original schedule and has had significant cost growth. This has led to some of the original international partners to re-consider how many aircraft they will buy and the terms of their contracts.

As the largest part of the Pentagon’s budget it would face cuts of several hundred million dollars if the required reductions are spread evenly. This would affect this years operations and perhaps cause further delays in the overall program.

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AMDR Work Continues, Northrop Announces Testing Success

The U.S. Navy is in the process of developing the successor to the SPY-1 radar and combat system that makes up part of the AEGIS Weapon System mounted on cruisers and destroyers. Originally designed to deal with a large number of aircraft and anti-ship missiles the system has been modified to address the ballistic missile threat to the United States. The new radar program is called the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and is currently in development.

In 2010 3 different contracts were awarded to U.S. defense contractors Northrop Grumman (NOC), Raytheon (RTN) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) to develop a version of the radar. The goal is later this year to move forward with another contract to complete development and engineering with a goal of selecting one provider. The new radar will go on ships like the DDG-1000 and new DDG-52 ships as they are built.

All 3 contractors have experience with Navy ship building, radars and missiles. In August Lockheed announced that it had already submitted their proposal for the next step of the program. Now today Northrop is showing its system and its testing. They also turned in a proposal this summer for the next phase.

Their AMDR system has completed some of its initial range testing including Near and Far field in Maryland. The testing has been successful demonstrating the capabilities of their design.

The AMDR program once it completes development and goes into production will replace the SPY-1 in the role of air as well as missile defense. While the Navy program for new ships remains in flux after 2013 due to the potential reductions in the U.S. defense budget it represents a huge program as it will be used for decades requiring further development, support and production.

Lockheed is the current contractor for the SPY-1 through acquiring Martin Marietta who had purchased the original developer and producer, General Electric (GE), defense work in this area.

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F-35 Continued Production Lands P&W Engine Contract

The F-35 will continue production in FY12 and FY13. The Pentagon has gone ahead and ordered the FY12 buy from Lockheed Martin (LMT) for another 30 or so aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Marines and Navy as well as various foreign partners. This contract was awarded in December. The full production buy follows the advance procurement purchase made last year to support the long lead items for the latest production batch of the advanced fighter. The future of the program may get more interesting depending on how big a cut the Pentagon needs to make in the FY13 and out. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the biggest acquisition program in history if all parts of it are executed coming in at well over a trillion dollars for production and support over the program’s lifetime. In order to save funding cuts to this total investment might become easy.

As part of the F-35 production there has to be engines and now that the fight between the F-135 manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, part of United Technologies (UTX), and the alternate engine from General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce (RR:LSE) is over those orders need to go to Pratt.

This means that last week as part of the upcoming advanced procurement for future aircraft P&W received a contract worth almost $200 million to support the engine production for 37 F-35 for the U.S., Italy and Australia.

The F-35 despite the fact that the budget wars about to affect the Pentagon may seriously change the program has had a few good weeks. First, Japan decided to buy it to replace some of their F-15 aircraft. Turkey also decided to buy two of the aircraft from a potential order of 100.

The contracts could be worth billions to Lockheed Martin and its supporting contractors as well aid the U.S. by decreasing the price of their aircraft. Every F-35 sold to another country will help keep production quantities up and prices down.

Overall the F-35 forms the core of the U.S. plans to modernize its aircraft fleets. Cuts in its quantities will only mean a requirement for older aircraft to fly longer at greater cost or reduced capability for the United States. This means despite the potential for reductions in U.S. defense spending the F-35 will remain a large part of the budget for the next several years.

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As F-136 Engine Ends Pratt & Whitney Celebrates F-135 Progress for JSF

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) being developed by Lockheed Martin (LMT) is the key modernization program for the U.S. military for the next few decades. The new Lightning II aircraft will replace U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps assets from the Cold War era as well as equip several Allied nations. It is also the largest, most expensive military acquisition program in history. Ultimately several thousand of the aircraft will be built in three variants for use from land bases, aircraft carriers and to supply the short vertical-take-off-and-landing (V/TOL) mission. A key component of this as with any other modern aircraft is the engine. The primary one for the JSF will be the F-135 under development by Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies (UTX) company.

Up to this year the U.S. was pursuing a dual source for the F-35 engine albeit against the wishes of the Defense Department. Congress funded Rolls-Royce (RR:LSE) and General Electric (GE) to develop the F-136 as a form of risk reduction and potential cost savings to the program. Every year for the last several the Department did not request funding for this effort and Congress would add it through the appropriations process. The Obama Administration continued the practice of trying to end the effort and in April made the decision to terminate the contract with the two companies. The two companies continue to lobby Congress and will for now maintain some effort using their own internal funds.

While this is going on in the background P&W continue to support the F-35 program as a whole. Recently the delivered the engine for the latest production batch, LRIP 3. This is the first production lot that will see all three U.S. services receive aircraft as well as two of the Allied participants, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The delivery also represents the 21st engine delivered by P&W for the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) part of the JSF program.

Also the company received the order for the next batch, LRIP 4, which is worth a little over a billion dollars for the F-135. This is for 37 engines, technical support and engineering services. The latest contract continues price reductions over previous ones which is expected as the program matures and begins larger and more stable orders.

The size of the engine contract alone illustrates the cost and complexity of the program. It also shows why there is such competition for the work. Ideally you would have two suppliers for such a critical piece but the F-35 already went through a fly off an downselect between Boeing (BA) and Lockheed which included the use of the F-135. The program has seen such schedule slip and cost growth that continuing two engines while it may be risk reduction to some may also be unaffordable.

Until the Congress and Defense Department finally agree on just using the F-135 there will be attempts to keep the F-136 alive. At the same time the program continues with more and more production utilizing only the P&W product providing more revenue and earnings to that company.

Photo from kenhodge12′s flickr photostream.

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Republican House Successfully Cancels JSF Second Engine Where Previous Administrations Failed

As part of their continuing resolution providing funding for the Federal government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 the Republican led House of Representatives struck funding for the F136 engine planned for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The overall bill includes several billion in cuts to the Defense Department as well as much more for Federal spending overall. The second engine is being developed by General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce (RR:LSE) while the primary one by Pratt & Whitney, a United Technology Company (UTC).

The idea of having a second source for this critical hardware as risk reduction is sound but for the last several years the Pentagon and Bush and Obama Administrations had requested no funding as it was felt an unnecessary program. Congress through its power over the budget kept funding in each year.

While the House has cut the funding there is still a chance that the Senate will leave it in and the final decision will be made in Conference. One of the primary arguments that occurs each year with budget deliberations is how many jobs would be lost if programs like this were ended. That of course is not supposed to be a rationale for defense spending but carries a lot of weight in Congress. Already stories such as this one “Cut engine wold have meant 200 new jobs in Terre Haute” will be appearing in newspapers, blogs and on TV stations across the U.S. today.

GE released a statement thanking their supporters but obviously turning their eyes to the Senate in an attempt to keep the program going. They wrote “While we are disappointed at the outcome, the debate to preserve competition will continue.” The company also pointed out that studies show that the competition between the engines would save billions over the life of the program.

The F-35 JSF is the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. history and has suffered from schedule delays and cost growth over the last decade. The aircraft will equip large parts of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps while also being used by U.S. Allies such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Norway and Holland among other countries. With the program’s cost increases the second engine has seen as an expensive luxury.

If the cancellation holds only as the program plays out will it be seen as a wise or premature move. If P&W supports the program effectively and the engine causes no delays or cost increases then the lack of a second source will not matter. If the opposite occurs then there will be finger pointing and recriminations.

Photo from Dysanovic’s Flickr photostream.

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Some Rough Sledding Ahead for JSF Program (Updated 17 September)

UPDATE – The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) used their move to cut production by ten aircraft as a way to criticize the whole JSF program overall. They said that the cut was the second option they considered with the first being elimination of all funding in 2011 for the program. The committee while it did not fund the second engine for the aircraft supported it in their language. The House has funded this as they did last year and the money will have to be decided upon in Committee.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has become the major acquisition program underway by the United States. Lockeed Martin’s (LMT) team of contractors along with the joint Air Force and Navy program office is building an advanced aircraft that will be used by the U.S. and many allies to replace the F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8 and Harrier vertical take off aircraft. In order to do this three separate versions will be developed.

Over the last few years the program has suffered schedule problems which have led to cost growth. This has reached a point where the Pentagon under Robert Gates has put a great deal of pressure on Lockheed to control costs. The increases in price have caused some countries like Canada and The Netherlands to rethink their commitment to the program.

In the United States the Congress has also weighed in on the program. The Senate Appropriation Committee marked up the 2011 budget and reduced the planned buy of aircraft from 42 to 32 for next year. They are arguing that Lockheed has not even begun building the aircraft ordered with last buy and that it seems sensible to reduce risk by cutting back.

At the same time the House continues to fund the alternate engine in development for the aircraft. This program has been funded by Congress for several years despite the Air Force’s and Defense Department’s wishes as a potential risk reduction for the system. It also keeps General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce (RR:LSE) involved in the program as the primary engine is made by Pratt & Whitney, part of United Technologies (UTC). Gates and the Obama Administration have threatened to veto the budget if the money was kept although they relented in 2010 as the funding did not come out of the core program budget.

Finally the negotiations for the current production buy have taken longer then planned as Lockheed and the Air Force struggle to find a way to reach the cost goals for the program. Part of the problem is that the Pentagon wants to move to a fixed price contract with fee tied to specific events. Most development contracts which this still really is are cost plus some fee based on schedule. The change caused Lockheed to have to submit a new proposal and contract structure which is taking time for the government to review and accept.

Delays in awarding the next phase of the program may only cause further problems down the line. Schedule slip and decreases in quantities will only cause more cost in the years ahead. This may force Allies to wait longer then they have planned as well as the U.S. military to keep older aircraft in service longer. This then leads to higher maintenance costs putting pressure on the overall budget as a whole.

The JSF has had its struggles these last three years and it looks like they will continue in the near term. The program though is necessary and still requires a commitment from the U.S. and the other customers as their options are limited without a decision to accept other aircraft currently in production.

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Dueling View on Defense Competition

Last week the former Reagan era U.S. Secretary of Defense John Lehman had an opinion piece in many newspapers across the country discussing the need for competition in large defense contracts. He specifically was writing in support of the dual engine track for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). This controversial program where a second source of engines for the advanced multi-role aircraft is being funded by Congress despite the objections of two Administrations, the Pentagon and the Air Force is being defended as risk reduction and as offering potential cost savings. This is how Lehman discusses it.

Certainly the idea is sound in that the second engine in development by General Electric (GE) and Rolls-Royce (RR:LSE) as an alternative to the main one being made by Pratt & Whitney, part of United Technologies (UTC), may end up costing less and be ready sooner but at a time when the program is struggling as well as the whole Federal budget it may be a luxury that the country cannot afford. Lehman cites previous examples of using alternate engines from when he was at the Defense Department that showed “benefits came swiftly and have endured. Reliability, performance and fuel economy improved steadily. Engine-caused accidents dropped. By the second year of full competition, the cost per engine had dropped 20 percent.” He points out that for the three major fighter programs of the Seventies and Eighties — the F-14, 15 and 16 — this approach was used successfully.

For both 2010 and 2011 the Obama defense budget request asked for no funding for the second engine. In the 2010 budget Congress found it by adding money and not taking it out of the core F-35 program. For 2011 the Senate has moved to try and not fund the program but the House markups so far continue it. If the final bills from each part of Congress contain differences it will have to be worked out in Conference. Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it contains the second engine but he did that last year and ended up accepting it. Obviously the Congressional delegations from the states where GE and Rolls-Royce are doing their work support it while the Connecticut delegation where P&W makes their engine have been trying to counter it.

In another view Congressman Tiahrt (R-KS) recently was interviewed about his efforts to promote the use of American contractors for programs. Tiahrt wants the Pentagon to maximize the use of American defense contractors even when it would have to lead to a sole source contract as there would only be one U.S. company able to do the work. The Pentagon does everything it can to avoid sole source contracts as that transfers most of the risk from the contractor to itself leaving little options of the program’s schedules and cost increases. Competition has long been one of the cornerstones of defense acquisition.

Tiahrt believes that the Defense Department must maximize the use of U.S. companies to provides jobs. At this time of current economic problems basically using the defense budget to provide “stimulus”. The problem this faces is that due to the decline of the U.S. industrial base in the Nineties there are often only one U.S. supplier for a product. Tiahrt uses the example of the buying of Russian Mil-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan by the Afghan military rather then purchasing the UH-60 from Sikorsky, another part of United Technologies. The reasons given for the purchase are more driven by requirements and the needs of the Afghan environment and capability. This is a system they are familiar with, it is simple to maintain and matches well to the environment.

Tiahrt, a former Boeing (BA) employee, is also a big supporter of awarding the new KC-X aerial tanker to that company and preventing the European defense giant, EADS (EADS:P). He had criticized the previous award to Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS overturned on Boeing’s protest in 2008. Now that Boeing and EADS are in direct competition for the latest attempt to award this contract he has kept up the criticism.

The problem that the Pentagon faces is only Boeing and EADS have the capability to provide this aircraft. The last tanker that was purchased was the KC-10 in the Eighties made by McDonell Douglas, who are now part of Boeing. With those two companies merged there is no U.S. competitor for the KC-X. In the early part of this decade the U.S. Air Force did award Boeing a sole source lease for KC-767 tankers but this was overturned after Congress found collusion by Air Force and Boeing officials this decision launched the second contest won by Northrop and EADS in 2008.

Tiahrt is right in that the Defense Department should try to award to American companies but the number of those producing major systems has declined. The increase in spending since 9/11 has seen major market penetration by European companies mainly through acquisition of U.S. companies and the establishment of subsidiaries. This has been driven by the need for multiple sources for systems to help keep prices low.

Without a major investment in revitalizing the U.S. industrial base this will be the situation faced anytime a major contract comes up for award Congressman Tiahrt’s protests notwithstanding.

In order to meet Lehman’s desire for competition the U.S. has to allow foriegn bidders which is an unfortunate fact-of-life. Congress will need to face this unless they just want to give contracts to American companies which would counter their desire to do defense purchasing more efficiently and at less cost. The decline of the Nineties is the root cause of this situation and there is no easy short term answer.

KC-10 photo from Mr. T in DC’s flickr photostream.

F-35 photo from Rob Shenk’s flickr photostream.

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GE ROLLS-ROYCE FIGHTER ENGINE TEAM HITS AFTERBURNER ON THIRD NEW ENGINE — Press Release

GE ROLLS-ROYCE FIGHTER ENGINE TEAM HITS AFTERBURNER ON THIRD NEW ENGINE

Evendale, Ohio, US – 22 March 2010 – The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team has successfully hit full afterburner on its third new production-configuration engine, continuing a year of major progress and milestones for the F136 program.

The afterburner tests were conducted in an advanced testing facility at GE. All major objectives have been reached during this phase of testing, which included an engine nozzle common to both F-35 engine programs. The Joint Strike Fighter aircraft was designed from its inception to include interchangeability with the F136 engine.

Six F136 engines are scheduled for testing this year, to measure engine performance and endurance as the competitive engine for the F-35 program continues to demonstrate steady progress and significant milestones.

F136 performance is meeting all expectations in terms of thrust, temperature margins, and fuel consumption — confirming the vital role that it will play competing in the Joint Strike Fighter program over several decades.

“We are marching along in development, making progress every day, and achieving full afterburner on our newest engine demonstrates the capability and success of the F136 team. It also means the F-35 program is another step closer to reaping the proven benefits of enduring competition in the engine program,” said Al DiLibero, President of the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team.

“This year will be the biggest yet for the F136 program as we ramp up our test program and move toward flight test. The F136 is designed specifically for the F-35 aircraft, with an engine core sized for the aircraft’s current and future needs,” said Mark Rhodes, Senior Vice President of the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team.

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GE Bets On House To Keep F-35 Second Engine Alive

Following up on its decision to strip the F-22 funding from the 2010 budget as requested by the Obama Administration the Senate also de-funded the second source for the F-35 JSF engine. This program too had its funding removed in the President’s budget submission but the House and the Senate Committees had restored some money to continue the program.

GE and Rolls-Royce are making this engine, the F136 with Pratt & Whitney responsible for the main F135 engine. The idea of having a second engine was due to the large amount of F-35 aircraft required and the three different versions there might be a need for such capability. GE is claiming that the competition that their engine provides will help control costs and schedule. The company feels that the funding will remain in the final bill as the House will support it in Conference. There is still a chance that the conference bill will also retain some money for the F-22 if the House is hard over on it.

It is interesting that Secretary of Defense Gates‘ wants to end this competitive program to save money when one of the new changes to defense acquisition that he has pushed this year is increased competition in the early stages of a program. Historically when there have been multiple sources trying to win a program there have been cost savings to the Government. In this case the feeling must be that the program is too mature to justify the two sources for the engines.

With the support of the Senate for Obama it may be a contentious conference, or the House may end up ending the programs. It will be an interesting August from the defense budget point of view.

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JSF Second Engine Fighting For Its Life

One of the programs cut by Secretary of Defense Gates’ in his proposed budget is the second source for the F-35 engine. This has been a controversial program since its inception. Now with the plan to end the program Rolls Royce and General Electric are arguing it is cheaper and more sensible to continue the program.

The Air Force and Navy have always been ambivalent about the program but Congress has kept it funded. The fact that Congress cuts aircraft production to find the funding has raised the hackles of some people. Now that the Defense Department has decided to end the program the contractors, and their allies in Congress, are arguing that most of the planned money has been spent and the program should at least complete development.

Of course if the engine did go into production and was used to power some of the JSF aircraft to be used by America and its allies the amount of revenue available to GE and Rolls Royce as well as Pratt & Whitney who make the primary engine would be quite substantial. The second source providers say that the bulk of the $3.5 billion allocated to the program has been spent so rather then terminating the program at some cost just complete it.

As with all of these programs recommended for termination it will be Congress who will have the last say in the budget. But since Gates moved quickly to halt the contracts for FCS and VH-71 it wouldn’t surprise me to see a stop work order on this one as well.

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Australia Buys Support for Jet Engines from GE

The Jacksonville Business Journal writes that Australia has awarded a contract worth over $300 million to provide parts, maintenance and overhaul of the engines for their F/A-18 fleet to General Electric. GE has several other of this type of contract with the U.S. armed forces that utilize their engines in a variety of platforms. Even though the contract is with a foreign country the parts will be shipped to the U.S. for work in Jacksonville, FL and Lynn, MA.

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GE wins contract to provide engines for the KC-45

This article, is I hope, commentary and not a news story. Or perhaps it is one of those commentaries that masquerade as a news story. Yes, P&W lost the chance to build engines, but GE won. If Boeing had won the contract I doubt there would have been an article saying “GE loses contract.” As to how politicians could change this, that I still haven’t figured out, since the whole source selection process is supposed to be removed from such things.

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