Pratt & Whitney won a $511.6-million U.S. Dept. of Defense contract for maintenance activities involving the F135 engine, the propulsion system powering the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. DoD described the contract as a modification to an earlier, “undefinitized” contract and will cover costs for Pratt & Whitney’s preliminary activities through 2023, as the Pentagon prepares for the fleetwide upgrade to “Block 4” capability.
Over 800 F-35s have been supplied since 2006, and 375 more are anticipated now in the planning and production stages.
The F135 is an afterburning turbofan power source for the single-engine fighter jets. The F-35 Block 4 upgrade refers to dozens of major updates to all three variants of the F-35, most of which concern electronic hardware and software, toward adoption of dozens of new weapons systems. Before the Block 4 update can be implemented, the jets’ core processor and memory will be updated in an effort called Technology Refresh 3 (TR3.)
According to Pratt & Whitney, the F135 engine core upgrade covered by the new contract will be “the fastest, most cost-efficient, lowest-risk path to Block 4 capability for all global F-35 operators.”
Regarding the engine core upgrade, Pratt added: “It is the only F-35 propulsion option that is a 'drop in' solution for all variants, adding no weight and avoiding disruptive and costly air vehicle changes that would introduce additional costs, schedule delays, and technical risk.”
Included in the new contract are recurring sustainment support, program management, financial and administrative activities, propulsion integration, replenishment spare part buys, engineering support, material management, depot level maintenance and repair, and other details, for all fielded propulsion systems at the F-35 production sites and operational locations.
The contract also covers training programs.
"Upgrades like this are a normal part of any major defense program and the F135 engine has been pushed beyond its original specifications for too long," stated Jill Albertelli, president of Pratt & Whitney's Military Engines business. "The F-35 engine core upgrade saves taxpayers $40 billion in lifecycle costs and builds upon a combat-tested engine architecture that has more than one million flight hours."