Pratt & Whitney drew a $14.9-million contract update from the U.S. Navy to cover expenses in a program to monitor the sustainment costs for the F135 jet engine, to reduce future F-35 propulsion sustainment costs. The F135 is the turbofan power source for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the largest U.S. defense program.
The new contract will be carried out by P&W in East Hartford, Conn., and Oklahoma City, and is expected to be completed in September 2024.
The F-35 is a single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft designed for deployment for ground attack and combat. The fighter jet is now in its second decade of production, but the program costs of have been under nearly constant scrutiny – mainly for the production expenses but also for the operating and maintenance costs.
A report last year claimed that F135 engines on USAF F-35A jets have been running close to their design limits, leading to premature cracking for turbine blade coatings. The cracking reduced the service life of the F135 engines, and the availability of Air Force jets while the engines are being repaired.
The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor for the F-35 program, reportedly are near to agreement on a $30-billion contract for the next three rounds of F-35 production, rounds 15, 16, and 17, though the number of aircraft to be supplied remains unresolved.
In June, the Defense Dept. authorized Pratt & Whitney to proceed with acquisition and production for 178 new F135 engines.