F-35 Deliveries Could Resume by March, as Pratt Says It Has an Engine Repair

Pratt & Whitney believes it has a repair in hand for the engine drawback that will have contributed to an F-35B crash in December, and deliveries of all F-35 fighters, on maintain since Dec. 27, 2022, might resume by March, in response to the contractor.

“Now we have developed a near-term treatment that permits the fleet to fly safely, and we count on that F135 engine deliveries might resume earlier than the tip of the month,” mentioned Jen Latka, vice chairman of Pratt & Whitney for the F135 engine, which powers the F-35 fighter.

Latka didn’t elaborate to Air & House Forces Journal on what the repair is, besides to say that it addresses “a uncommon programs phenomenon involving harmonic resonance.”

The Dec. 14 crash that led to the halt in deliveries occurred throughout an F-35B acceptance flight at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Price, Texas, facility—the plane all of a sudden pitched ahead throughout a vertical descent and struck the runway. The pilot ejected at zero altitude and survived the escape with gentle harm.

The crash sparked an investigation, led by Naval Air Programs Command, which in flip led to all deliveries of F135 engines and F-35s being suspended.

A cracked gasoline tube discovered within the wreck, suspected within the early days of the investigation, has turned out to not be a systemic drawback, Latka mentioned.

“After thorough assessment, we will confidently say there have been no high quality points with the gasoline tube that fractured,” she mentioned.

“We’re working intently” the F-35 Joint Program Workplace, Naval Air Programs Command and the Air Drive Life Cycle Administration Middle “on all elements of the continued investigation, together with root trigger willpower and corrective motion improvement,” Latka mentioned. “Security for the warfighter is and can proceed to be our primary precedence.” She famous that the F135 has accrued 600,000 flight hours, and this expertise together with “every thing we’ve discovered over the past 20 years” will probably be utilized to “proceed to mature and modernize the F135.”

A spokeswoman for NAVAIR couldn’t supply an estimate of when the inquiry will probably be concluded. She provided no touch upon whether or not any inspections or technical orders have been ordered on account of a security probe performed within the wake of the accident.

The F-35 JPO referred queries concerning the engine state of affairs to Pratt & Whitney.

A Lockheed Martin spokeswoman mentioned the contractor has completed constructing—and is storing—17 F-35s because the halt in deliveries was ordered on the finish of December. Manufacturing of the fighters has continued at a standard tempo since then.

A number of flight assessments are required of every plane as a way to full the DD250 course of, which is the handover protocol of a proper plane supply. The Lockheed spokeswoman couldn’t supply an estimate of how lengthy it might take to finish these flight assessments for the 17 plane.

Roughly a dozen of the 17 F-35s presently in storage had been headed for Air Drive responsibility, a service spokeswoman informed Air & House Forces Journal. The plane had been destined for Lakenheath Air Base, U.Ok.; Nellis Air Drive Base, Nev.; Luke Air Drive Base, Ariz.; and Hill Air Drive Base, Utah, she mentioned.

Whereas there have been “no operational impacts” on account of the F-35 deliveries hiatus, the Air Drive spokeswoman mentioned, she famous an issue with “the F-35 primary gasoline throttle valve has solely impacted manufacturing plane and a really small variety of fielded F-35s with low-time engines.”

The Air Drive is “working with the [JPO], Division of the Navy, companions, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney towards a decision to renew engine and plane deliveries as quickly as potential,” she added.

Pratt has been lobbying the Air Drive to go along with its F135 Engine Core Improve (ECU) to offer the extra energy and cooling required for the Block 4 model of the F-35.

The Air Drive can also be contemplating upgrading to one of many Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) engines developed by Pratt and GE Aerospace. The 2 engines—GE’s XA-100 and Pratt’s XA-101—had been developed as potential F-35 engine upgrades over a 12-year interval. Each present a few 30 p.c enhance in gasoline effectivity, in addition to improved thrust and cooling, because of a novel bypass air function.

Nevertheless, the JPO has warned the Air Drive that it must bear the prices for the event of an AETP engine alone, as companions in this system, within the curiosity of commonality, should “pay to be totally different.”

Pratt would like the Air Drive go along with the F135 ECU—although Pratt has an AETP engine to supply—as such a alternative would cement its monopoly as the only supplier of F-35 engines. The AETP choice would doubtlessly herald GE as one other supply.

Air Drive Secretary Frank Kendall has mentioned engine improvement cost-sharing with Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, however no joint effort has been introduced. Whereas GE says its AETP will be tailored to suit any of the three F-35 variants, Pratt has mentioned its model can’t be made to work with the F-35B, which employs a rotating rear nozzle and a vertically-mounted raise fan to realize vertical takeoffs and landings.  

USAF officers have mentioned the F-35 engine query will possible be answered within the fiscal yr 2024 President’s Funds, now anticipated to be launched in early March.