The jet engine the Defense Department couldn’t kill is officially dead - done in by its own makers.
In a statement Friday, General Electric and Rolls-Royce said they would no longer continue to develop the F136 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“GE and Rolls-Royce are proud of our technology advancements and accomplishments on the F136,” said Dan McCormick, president of the joint effort.”However, difficult circumstances are converging that impact the potential benefit of a self-funded development effort.”
The statement did not specify what the circumstances were.
After trying unsuccessfully since 2007, the Pentagon succeeded in getting Congress to cut off funding for the $100 billion program in April, believing it was a waste of scarce money to develop an alternative to Pratt and Whitney’s F135 engine. At times the program seemed to have more lives than a cat, with the Pentagon taking its funding out of the budget and lawmakers putting it back in.
The tipping point came with the convergence of looming cuts to defense spending and the desire of tea party-backed Republican lawmakers to make deficit reduction a priority.
But the engine’s powerful supporters in Congress, led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), concerned about maintaining competition in the market, engineered a deal for GE and Rolls-Royce to continue the program on their own dime. The hope was that with completion of the engine’s development, lawmakers could secure new funding for the program.
“GE and Rolls-Royce are deeply grateful to our many congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle over these many years as well as the military experts who have supported competing engines for JSF,” McCormick said. “We do not waver in our belief that competition is central to meaningful defense acquisition reform.”
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