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HASC Presses Hard on F136

With the F136 engine likely inserted into the coming House of Representative's Continuing Resolution, some of the second engine's strongest supporters used a hearing today to press the Air Force and JSF leadership about buying the GE/Rolls Royce engine.

The arguments at the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee were familiar to anyone who has followed the second engine war: competition is good; the US will face operational risks if all most of our fighters rely on a  single engine; Pratt & Whitney's F135 engine is greatly over budget. David Van Buren Air Force principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition, repeated the arguments of senior Pentagon officials that the second engine just cost too much in these straitened budgetary times.

Rep.Roscoe Bartlett, subcommittee chairman,asked the assembled officials if they could tell him why compeition was good for the Littoral Combat Ship program but was not good for the JSF engine program. All the officials -- including the Government Accountability Office's acquisition expert Michael Sullivan -- demurred, saying either they didn't know enough about LCS or weren't able to make such a comparison.

Vice Adm. David Venlet, head of the JSF program, offered the subcommittee some good news. He said seven of the JSF fleet were back on the flight line after the fleet was grounded last week due to the failure of two generators and an oil leak. Venlet said aircraft using older generators were cleared for flight. We hear that the pilot of AF-4, who was flying the stricken jet, did not get a full reading of his instruments after the generators failed and backup systems kicked in. This may raise questions about whether the backup provides enough power. But it is awfully early to make any judgments about just what caused the failure and what is needed to fix it.

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