Engine maker Pratt & Whitney has reached an agreement in principle with the U.S. Department of Defense for engines on the fifth block of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The news comes as P&W works to correct an engine flaw that last month caused the grounding of all F-35B jump-jet variants.
“Reaching this agreement is fair and beneficial to the Government and Pratt & Whitney,” Gen. Christopher Bogdan, who heads the F-35 program, wrote in a statement. “Engine prices have decreased and I appreciate everyone’s commitment to drive cost out of the program. This will help us to deliver on the promise of the F-35 to three U.S. Services and all the nations partnered with us.”
“We are focused on ensuring the long-term success of the F-35 program by delivering on our production commitments, and we will continue to keep the momentum in driving down F135 engine costs,” Chris Flynn, vice president, Pratt & Whitney F135/F119 Engine Programs, wrote in a statement. “We share in our government customer’s commitment to work together to accelerate the cadence of the contracting process for the next production lots.”
The contract covers 32 engines, including 22 conventional engines, seven aircraft carrier variants used by the Navy, and three STOVL engines for the Marine Corps’ F-35B. Costs were not listed because the contract has not been finalized.
The announcement of the engine contract is welcome news for a program that has faced challenges in recent weeks. The jet has suffered recent setbacks, including widely cited problems from the military’s annual testing report and the decision by partner nation Canada to reconsider whether to purchase its block of F-35s.
Most recently, all F-35Bs were grounded after a Jan. 16 test flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was aborted due to engine problems. That issue has been identified as improperly crimped lines in the fueldraulic system of the jet, a situation that one person with knowledge of the situation expects to have taken care of by “early February.”
It took DoD and JSF contractor Lockheed Martin more than a year to reach agreement on the price of the fifth block of F-35s. The conflict prompted September comments from Bogdan that the relationship between the contractor and the Joint Program Office was “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
However, the two sides reached an agreement in December, which was quickly followed by an outline for a sixth batch of fighters.
Lockheed’s F-35 head, Tom Burbage, plans to retire in March.