GE Says New F-35 Engine Would Refresh Propulsion Industrial Base

If the Air Power and Pentagon resolve the F-35 fighter wants an all-new engine, it wouldn’t simply give the jet vary and efficiency enhancements—it will drive a refresh of all the fighter propulsion industrial base, a GE Aerospace official claimed Feb. 16.

Competitor Pratt & Whitney, nonetheless, says placing a model new engine on the F-35 would damage future improvement for applications just like the Subsequent Technology Air Dominance fighter.

Talking with reporters about GE’s XA100 Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) powerplant, vp and common supervisor of superior fight engines David Tweedie stated he’s anticipating the upcoming fiscal 2024 protection price range will embrace a call on the way forward for F-35 propulsion.

GE Aerospace is rooting for that call to incorporate AETP, which might put it again in competition to energy F-35 fighters.

A brand new powerplant means “a possibility not simply to proceed making legacy structure/legacy-type engines which might be at present in manufacturing, however to truly absolutely modernize” the fighter engine industrial base with “the most recent applied sciences,” together with many which might be in business merchandise however “haven’t but been launched into manufacturing fighter engines,” Tweedie stated.

“It’ll present a modernized, diversified and extra resilient [military engine] industrial base in the USA,” he added.

Competitor Pratt & Whitney, in the meantime, continues to argue in favor of a extra incremental improve to its present F135 engine.

“AETP expertise is greatest fitted to sixth-generation platforms, not the F-35,” Jen Latka, F135 vp at Pratt, stated in a Feb. 16 e mail to Air & House Forces Journal. “A brand-new F-35 engine will unnecessarily disrupt this system of report and divert billions from superior sixth-gen propulsion options,” she stated.

Pratt & Whitney has had been the F-35’s sole engine-maker since GE was locked out of this system in 2011. Each corporations developed AETP powerplants underneath yearslong, multi-billion greenback Air Power contracts geared to offering better vary and energy to the F-35 at midlife, however the Air Power hasn’t stated but whether or not it wants or can afford to develop a brand new F-35 engine.

The F-35 Block 4 wants extra energy and cooling functionality to run its new capabilities, nonetheless, so no change in any respect isn’t a alternative.  

To maintain its choices open, Congress appropriated $203 million late in 2022 for additional improvement of AETP engines, which Tweedie stated GE is utilizing to “burn down danger” on its XA-100 model and maintain a workforce of some 400 engineers collectively. GE has dubbed this effort “Design and Manufacturing Development”—a time period Tweedie stated describes actions akin to Engineering and Manufacturing Improvement—which can leverage information collected in prototyping and start manufacturing design; proceed airframe integration efforts with Lockheed Martin, and sketch out logistics and sustainment plans.

Pratt & Whitney additionally has an AETP engine to supply, but it surely has as an alternative pitched what it calls the F135 Engine Core Improve, which might enable the corporate to maintain its F-35 monopoly. Latka stated in December that firm believes the ECU strategy would save $40 billion versus an all-new powerplant, counting improvement and integration prices and the necessity to flesh out a worldwide assist enterprise with new engines and components.

“Our F135 Engine Core Improve will incorporate superior propulsion applied sciences…and keep the present balanced industrial base. It’s additionally the one answer that works for all F-35 clients and allows full Block 4 capabilities beginning in 2028.”

Tweedie stated GE may have an XA100 manufacturing mannequin prepared for the F-35A and C in 2028—and the engines would combine “seamlessly” with each plane. However making an AETP engine match the F-35B, which has a novel propulsion system for vertical operations, would require considerably extra improvement work, Tweedie acknowledged. He declined to say how for much longer an F-35B-configured engine would take to develop and convey to manufacturing. However it may be accomplished, he insisted.

He famous that the F-35A/C and F-35B use completely different variations of the F135 already; they’re “not interchangeable,” though there’s some commonality, he stated.

The F-35 Joint Program Workplace requested GE to have a look at what could be essential to make the XA100 work with the F-35B’s elevate fan, drive shaft and swivel exhaust nozzle, Tweedie stated, with emphasis on “how a lot commonality” and “how a lot ‘distinctive’ there could be” between the 2 variations.

GE was “happy with the outcomes of the examine, when it comes to our capacity to indicate a path to make the modifications in a in a B-model spinoff that would present some good capabilities,” he stated.

For its half, the JPO agreed “it will be a separate, incremental effort” from the traditional takeoff model, Tweedie continued. “We’ve supplied what these incremental prices and timing could be.”

GE gave the JPO and Marine Corps, which operates the F-35B, an estimate of how lengthy a separate AETP engine would take, however Tweedie declined to share it, besides that it will be “after” the 2028 goal for the traditional takeoff model.

Air Power Secretary Frank Kendall has stated the service would really like the efficiency enhancements provided by the AETP engines, however USAF must bear the event prices alone if the Navy and different companions aren’t .

“We definitely understand a big quantity of enthusiasm from the Air Power management … over the previous couple of years,” Tweedie stated.

“As you already know, [on] December 22, 2020, we fired up the primary engine and it labored proper, and and that has generated a big quantity of onsite visits from quite a lot of Air Power management, to essentially ‘kick the tires,’ meet the workforce, see the … constructed engine, see [it] … disassembled and simply actually perceive in order that they will take advantage of knowledgeable determination,” he stated.

Tweedie argued {that a} new engine is an operational crucial, given the geopolitical panorama, to energy an F-35 with “transformational capabilities.”

Repeating earlier claims, Tweedie stated the XA100 would offer the F-35A with 30 p.c extra vary enhance, 20 p.c extra thrust, and twice as a lot thermal administration capability, in addition to “sturdiness enhancements and readiness enhancements that the warfighter wants.”

“This can be a requirements-driven determination course of,” Tweedie argued. The U.S. should cope with its pacing problem in China, and “there’s a timeframe related to that.”

Whereas “we’re definitely glad to see our competitor”—Pratt—acknowledge {that a} new core is important, “incremental upgrades to current engines can’t alone meet the precise wants of the warfighter,” Tweedie insisted.  

The Pratt ECU additionally presents solely a seven p.c vary enchancment, he famous.

“It’s not clear {that a} seven p.c enhance is one thing that truly offers operationally significant functionality to the warfighter,” he stated. “So we actually really feel strongly that the total functionality of an AETP answer … is the way in which to go.”

Additionally, “injecting competitors “into the propulsion world is one thing that we predict can present loads of advantages, as has been accomplished on different platforms previously.”