F-35 Second Engine Program A "Waste"

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During a House committee hearing Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the plan to provide an alternate engine for the F-35 "unnecessary and extravagant" and a "waste" of $3 billion, and the House voted to cut funds. The House voted to cut $450 million for the engine program from funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. That move doesn't take effect unless the spending bill to which it is attached is approved by the House and then makes it through the Senate. The alternate engine being produced by GE-Rolls Royce would serve as a backup for the Pratt & Whitney unit, which is expected to be the primary F-35 engine. Halting the GE-Rolls Royce program and removing competition from the program has raised some concerns.

"We will continue to press the case for competition," Rick Kennedy, a GE aviation spokesman, told Bloomberg news. The broad argument is that lack of competition could raise the price of the primary engine while also removing the backstop of alternative technology in the case that there is a problem with the Pratt & Whitney. The Pratt & Whitney engine is already years behind schedule due to development issues. Because the F-35 is scheduled to ultimately replace nearly all manned U.S. fighter aircraft, removing GE from the program may also remove GE from that $100 billion market.