In January 2006 changes in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program were proposed in the Pentagon’s FY 2007 budget request. One of those cuts was to the F-35′s engine choice program when the contenders were issued $3.43 billion in contracts in August 2005. The General Electric/Rolls Royce F136 would be canceled, and the entire contract (and implicitly, future spares and maintenance) awarded to Pratt & Whitney’s F135, currently powering the F-35 JSF test fleet.
Given Britain’s $2 billion participation as the only other Tier 1 partner with the USA, the implied snub to Britain was not taken well. Engine choice programs have worked well for the F-16 and F-15 fighters, and Congress may yet decide to restore this competitive aspect of the program in order to keep future costs in line. If not, however, Pratt & Whitney has moved to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Rolls Royce to define their future collaboration on the F135 engine, which may also help them take some of the steam out of British lobbying efforts to reinstate engine choice. This remains to be seen, of course.
At the same time, testing has resumed on the GE/RR F136 under the $2.4B System Design and Demonstration contract that was awarded in August of 2005.