General Electric has had to take its second F-136 engine off line and inspect it after a piece of testing equipment broke free and was gobbled up by the giant engine less than a week ago. GE, of course, is partnering with Rolls Royce on the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.
"It's still up on the test stand but it's not running," said Rick Kennedy, spokesman for GE Aviation. The test equipment rattled loose and the company is bore scoping the engine to inspect the turbines and other equipment to see how much damage was done and assess the way ahead.
In addition, the first engine GE put on the test stand revealed just the kind of design problem that testing is meant to uncover -- a problem with a bearing. "When we got to the first engine, we ran a few hours and we found there were shavings in the lube system. We made a modification on the clearance bearing of the engine and it ran fine after that," Kennedy said.
All this occurs at a very delicate time for the F136 program as Congress readies to craft the defense appropriations and authorization bills. Kennedy said the company has done more than 800 hours of pre-SDD testing on close cousins of the two test engines, though he also said the company was only able to do 32 hours of testing on the first engine.
Watch for the engine wars to get much hotter as Congress returns from recess and the stakes grow for both companies.