Pratt & Whitney has been awarded a US$66 million (AU$98.24 million) definitive contract modification for continued F135 engine core upgrade preliminary design efforts as part of the critical engine modernisation effort for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
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This round of funding marks a total of US$180 million (AU$267.9 million) secured by the Connecticut congressional delegation, which will further support design engineering, program management, technology maturation, risk reduction, long lead material and hardware purchase, and weapons system integration.
This follows the US Air Force, US Marine Corps, and US Navy decision to choose to upgrade the F135 versus replacing it with an entirely new engine, which was announced as part of President Joe Biden’s 2024 budget proposal.
Jen Latka, Pratt & Whitney’s vice-president for the F135 program, welcomed this latest round of funding, saying, “We’re extremely grateful for the ceaseless support we receive from the entire Connecticut delegation. We’ll use this funding to make quick progress on our engine core upgrade’s preliminary design efforts, and that will keep us on track to deliver this important capability starting in 2028.”
Representative Rosa DeLauro, a ranking member of the House appropriations committee said, “A modernised F-35 needs a modernised engine to support it. The additional $66 million for the F135 engine core upgrade we’ve secured will help us maintain a skilled workforce in Connecticut and around the country to deliver this much-needed capability.”
The F135 ECU is the fastest, most cost-effective, and lowest-risk path to Block 4 capability for all global F-35 operators.
“Upgrading the F135 is the right decision to support our national defence priorities and defence industrial base and I’ll continue to ensure this program gets the support and funding it needs,” Representative DeLauro added.
This decision is supported by the F-35 program’s prime contractor, with Lockheed Martin saying in June, “We are fully committed to engine modernisation efforts that ensure the F-35 remains the world’s most capable fighter for decades to come. As such, we will continue our partnership with government and industry to implement the US government’s decision to pursue the F135 engine core upgrade and any future decisions to stay ahead of the evolving threat.”
It is optimised for all three F-35 variants and will yield US$40 billion (AU$59.47 billion) in lifecycle cost savings by avoiding disruptive and costly air vehicle changes and leveraging the current global sustainment infrastructure.