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August 17, 2009—Pentagon leaders believe that their plan to continue with only one engine-maker for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is "still valid," in the words of Marine Corps Gen.James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in fielding reporters' questions at the Pentagon Aug. 13, said they were not alarmed by a purported single year 24 percent cost increase for the Pratt & Whitney F135 that powers the F-35.

Gates said, "There is always cost growth associated with a developmental aircraft."

He continued: "We think that fixing the problems that we've encountered—the challenges that we face—with the engine, is something that's quite manageable, doable. And we don't think it's the best use of our money to fund a second engine."

He explained, further, saying, that's one reason the Pentagon had placed "over $4 billion in the FY '10 budget to reduce the program risk—to allow for more engineers, more testing time, more airframes for testing."

Cartwright acknowledged that continuing development of the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine is one way to manage risk. (The House seems disposed to continue F136 development, but the Senate now has opted out, setting the stage for conference debate when lawmakers return from recess.)

However, Cartwright said: "The path that we're on is to manage [risk] both with technical expertise, … and then from the standpoint of the larger decision that we made here—there were a lot of reasons, beyond management of risk, why we went to the single engine. And they still stand valid."  


Pentagon briefing transcript section on the JSF engine issue