F136 Engine for JSF Reaching Test Milestones
Two F136 engine prototypes are reaching static-test milestones under a 10-year-old General Electric/ Rolls-Royce project to produce the second engine option for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Both conventional engines and Short Takeoff/ Vertical Landing (SToVL) variants are being tested. The JSF engine program has brought together the expertise of the three major U.S. and British manufacturers, resulting in unprecedented levels of coordination to make the F136 and F135 engines interchangeable across the three F-35 variants, with common hardware compatible with each engine’s systems.
The GE/Rolls-Royce team is two to four years behind (see full timeline) Pratt & Whitney’s F135, a derivative of the F119 engine fitted on the F-22 Raptor. The F135 will power the JSF through its first 3 production lots of about 75 aircraft. Meanwhile, the F136 team is just completing work associated with the $411 million Phase III System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract to evaluate an engine for the three versions of the JSF. As the 2002 contract ends in coming months, GE/Rolls is anticipating a $2 billion full SDD contract by the Joint Strike Fighter project office to develop and build 15 engines through 2012. The deadline for the final proposal is Apr. 30, 2005.
Borrowing from the commercial side, the F136 team intends to use technology that will lengthen the interval between normal inspections. F136 program manager Jean Lydon-Rodgers says “prognostic” capability will be built in. The goal is to lengthen the military’s inspection intervals from the common practice of checks after 500 hr. toward the 10,000-hr. interval common to the commercial aviation field.
Tom Hartmann, vice-president of GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team, said: “There are advantages [to being slightly behind]. It gives us time to ‘tweak’ the engine to suit changes to the Lockheed Martin F-35 as the aircraft is delivered; and we have time to work out a global sourcing strategy.” Hartmann said GE had a similar experience with the F110 engine in the Lockheed Martin F-16, which was much later to market than P&W’s F100 but has picked up business due to its greater power output.
F136 engines will be entering the competition to power JSFs as early as 2008 and the first production engines are expected to be available in 2011. Aviation Week & Space Technology: The Power of Versatility.
Feb 11/08: GE and Rolls Royce announce successful completion of the Critical Design Review, which validates and approves the design before proceeding with the first full development engines. As of February 2008, the first production F136s are expected for delivery by “late 2012.”