Why Congress Cares About Engine Competition for the Joint Strike Fighter
"Should Congress fail to fund the alternate engine, there will be only one type of engine available for a plane--the JSF--that will constitute 90 percent of all U.S. fighters in 2035. Because it is a single-engine plane as opposed to dual-engine, if something goes wrong with the engine, it could lead to a system-wide grounding of every aircraft until the problem is identified and fixed--unless there is an alternative available. Such a scenario constitutes an unacceptably high risk. Further, Congress just passed a new acquisition reform law that demands competition for all major subsystems--including fighter engines. Consequently, Congress must keep JSF alternate engine funds intact when the final defense bills are signed into law later this year.
While few expect any tough votes if the Senate's FY 2010 defense appropriations bill arrives on the floor this autumn, one outstanding question remains: Given that Members have largely acquiesced to all of President Obama's defense cuts, will Congress continue funding the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) alternate engine (F136)?
For the past three years, all four congressional defense committees have remained staunchly committed to a competitive F-35 propulsion system, which includes developing an alternate engine. Further, Congress has repeatedly demonstrated that it supports competition in major defense contracts, given the resulting cost savings and innovation that typically leads to a better product. This time should be no different, particularly in light of the lessons learned from the Great Engine War in the 1980s."
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