The U.S. Department of Defense placed a contract estimated at $2 billion with Pratt & Whitney for 135 of the F135 jet engines, to power all three variants of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. As well as the engines, this low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract for Lot 11 of the F-35 series covers program management, engineering support, production support, spare modules, and spare parts.
The deliveries will start this year, and Lot 11 is due to be completed in 2020.
Pratt & Whitney’s F135 is an afterburning turbofan engine developed for the F-35, built by Lockheed Martin. Last year, DoD placed contracts totaling $7.7 billion with Lockheed for Lot 11 of the F-35, covering 124 aircraft in all three design variants.
The single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft is deployable for ground attack and combat: the F-35A is designed for conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL); the F-35B, for short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL), and the F-35C carrier-based variants for Catapult Assisted Take-Off but Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant.
The F135 engine also has variants, as needed for the particular aircraft: a conventional, forward-thrust variant and a multi-cycle Short Take-Off Vertical Landing STOVL variant that includes a forward lift fan.
While the F-35 program has been widely criticized for the high unit costs (from $94.6 million to $122.8 million, depending on the design variant in Lot 10) Pratt & Whitney noted in its announcement that its new contract supports "program affordability initiatives with reduction in propulsion system price."
P&W reported that the "unit recurring flyaway" (URF) price for 110 Lot 11 CTOL and carrier-variant engines will be reduced 0.34% from the Lot 10 URF. The URF price for the 25 LRIP Lot 11 STOVL engines (including the lift systems) will be reduced 3.39% from the Lot 10 URF.
"Pratt & Whitney and our supply chain remain committed to continual cost reduction for the F135 engine and to providing a superior product at the best value for our U.S. and international customers," stated John Wiedemer, vice president, F135 Program. "Since 2009, we have reduced the production cost of the F135 by more than half and are now pursuing additional affordability initiatives to drive down engine production and sustainment costs even further throughout the F-35's planned lifecycle."