No, Again, To F-35 Alt-Engine

by reader Ilsm

“No, Again, To F-35 Alt-Engine: Schwartz”, John Reed, DefenseNews.com August 4, 2010

The U.S. Air Force’s top general reaffirmed his opposition to the GE-Rolls Royce’s alternative engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter this week, saying that spending billions on the backup engine does not make sense in today’s fiscal environment.

“I don’t favor” the F136 engine, said Schwartz after an Aug. 4 meeting with the editorial staff of Defense News and Air Force Times. “I don’t debate the larger strategic question about the value of competition. This is a question of: if we’ve got a trillion-dollar deficit, if we’re not going to say no to that, what do we say no to?”

Ilsm here:
The general should have said, “the P&W engine is reliable, the needed production rate can be achieved and we have test data to support those conclusions”, there is no proof the P&W engine is producible and reliable, so the general relies on the DoD’s “concern” for the deficit.

The F-35 has one engine; if the single engine flames out and cannot be restarted the airplane becomes a lawn dart. The P&W engine installed in the F-16 in the late 1970’s was not reliable, even though it was an adaptation of the engine already flying on the F-15. When the USAF, who had not insisted the engine be reliable during acquisition, required that P&W fix the reliability the answer was “send more money” there is no warranty and no remedy when faulty designs are accepted. As a result the USAF restarted the GE engine development and deployed it enduring the lost aircraft utilization and crashes that occurred because the P&W engine was not well tested in the F-16 program.

The F-35 has quality issues, and cannot meet highly scripted test events because things break all the time. Say no to weapons which cannot be maintained because there is no money or time to design them properly. If followed to its logical conclusion: there is no room in the trillions in deficits for the F-35 which has not met test schedule much less passed anything.

General Schwatz should support high quality, and address why spending hundreds of billions to deliver up to 2000 F-35’s the DoD cannot get a quality engine.
Besides insuring against poor technical outcomes, there are enough engines for the F-35’s large numbers and long anticipated life to justify alternative engines with the better performing engine installed on a higher percent of the deployed aircraft. This is what happened with the F-16, after years of lost performance.
If DOD cannot afford to acquire reliable propulsion sources they can afford the airplane and should kill the F-35.

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