Web Engines

/ January 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As the Pentagon prepares to cut the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate power plant program -- again -- engine makers General Electric and Rolls-Royce have launched a new Web site touting their product's success.

The F136 Fighter Engine Team's stand up of the Web site comes about a month before the Defense Department's fiscal year 2010 budget proposal heads to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers -- for the third time in three years -- will have to decide whether to fund the program.

The cyber launch also comes in advance of a major testing milestone at which GE and Rolls-Royce will power up the first production F136 engine early this year.

Despite the F136's success, Pentagon officials have repeatedy lobbied to kill the program in an effort to save money, funding only the Pratt & Whitney-run F135 engine program.

Inside the Air Force first reported in November 2008 that the Pentagon would try to ax the F136 program in its FY-10 budget submission. Defense Department officials claimed they would save $3.5 billion over the next six years, according to sources and documents.

F136 program supporters claim a second engine is needed should a major issue arise with the primary power plant down the road. Opponents, however, say technological advancements in engine building make one engine a safe bet.

The Pentagon and allies plan to buy thousands of the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin-built F-35 fighter-bomber aircraft.

Air Force F-16 fighters are powered by a mix of Pratt & Whitney and General Electric engines. Foreign countries are given the option of Pratt & Whitney or GE engines when buying Lockheed-built F-16s.

-- Marcus Weisgerber