UPDATED: With congressional comment
Testing of the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter restarted Friday and GE claims that the several months of delay resulted in "minimal" cost increases.
"Delay costs were minimal -- there has been no re-programming of the F136, and we're on cost," said GE spokesman Rick Kennedy. "We are eager to accumulate test hours in 2010, and we plan to make that up with several engines running this year."
A congressional aide said the GE/Rolls Royce team had one what it needed to do: "It is important that they said they would restart in January and they managed to do so, unlike some other aspects of the program, like first vertical landing that has gone from June 09 to Sept 09, to October, to November, to January to... ???"
The engine on stand is #06. Kennedy said that "the rebuilds on engines #05 and #04 (which both ran last year) are being finalized to run by mid-year." Buzz readers will remember the basic problem GE and Rolls Royce faced was a lug nut that failed and needed redesigning.
Kennedy said the engine is performing within expected parameters. "The best thing -- the engine is running (in terms of vibration, fuel burn, thrust, etc.) as anticipated. Naturally, no one likes development issues, but you really don't want performance shortfalls. As you hear around the test cell: 'This engine wants to run.'"
The engine will have to run as it probably faces another challenging year -- hasn't every year been challenging -- since the Obama administration is almost certain to leave funding for the engine out of its defense budget due out on Monday.
Of course, Congress has stuffed money for the engine back into the budget every year and nothing fundamental has changed on the Hill. The congressional aide elaborated. "Congress has supported the alternate engine for four years without SECDEF support -– I didn’t say without Pentagon support because all the non-politicos involved in the program do, but can’t say publicly, support a competitive engine program. Staff will continue to recommend to members that they support the program. The Gates/White House argument that a cut/delay of two aircraft last year to help fund the program 'severely disrupted' the program doesn’t fly well when their budget supposedly cuts/delays 122 aircraft because of program problems," the aide said in an email.
And, after all, November is a long ways away....