Defense Secretary Robert Gates really wants to kill the second engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter and he devoted much of his five-minute budget announcement today to that end. General Electric, knowing survival of the program is again on the line, came right out and struck back.
"He claimed the F136 engine program would cost $3 billion to complete -- a figure already discredited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GE and Rolls-Royce believe the number is closer to $1.8 billion. He failed to discuss the continuing cost overruns for the lead Pratt & Whitney engine for JSF, which last week grew an additional $1 billion in 2010 and now totals $3.5 billion in just the development phase alone," Rick Kennedy, GE spokesman, said in an email. "He failed to discuss a four-year, struggling JSF flight test program in which the lead P&W engine has failed to operate throughout the full flight envelope - and how the P&W engine still needs untold hundreds of millions of dollars."
Gates, sending a clear signal to Tea Party Republicans and some Democrats in the House, said he would welcome debate about the program's future on the House floor. GE would too, according to Kennedy.
"Secretary Gates said he welcomed a debate on the House floor regarding the F136 competitive engine. We couldn't agree more -- there needs to be a debate on whether to hand a $100 billion monopoly of a single engine supplier whose costs are out of control. There was already a debate before the full House last May, and the House authorized funding for competing JSF engines. The difference today is that the case for competing JSF engine has become fare more compelling. While the P&W cost overruns continue, the latest revision to the JSF production schedule again delays aircraft procurement. Now, all combat-capable F-35s procured by the U.S. military and its international allies can be delivered with the choice of either competing engine: the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 or the P&W F135. Fifteen years of bi-partisan Congressional support for the F136 engine is based on good government policy that will save taxpayers money," Kennedy said.
Gentlemen, choose your weapons. Watch the money flow, the words fly and watch the White House closely.