Pentagon finally kills alternative F-35 engine programme

Washington: The Pentagon yesterday finally terminated a jet fighter engine programme intended for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), something that had become emblematic of waste and duplication in the US military's acquisition processes. The contractors, General Electric and Rolls Royce, however, pledged to continue to fight for its restoration.

The GE/Rolls F-136 engine being developed for the JSF programmeThe termination of the contract for an alternative engine for the F-35 programme was a culmination of a long drawn battle waged by the Pentagon to cut out waste from its budget. The Pentagon had already issued a stop-work order in March that had halted funding.

The termination requires GE Aviation to turn over all the assets of the programme to the government, including the nine engines that the design team had built, according to a GE spokesman.

However, GE said it would maintain a roughly 100-member team that would keep working on the engine's design. The rest of the project's workers would be absorbed into other engine programmes without layoffs.

GE Aviation will also continue lobbying for fund restoration in 2012, the spokesman said.

The programme was held up a classic example of how politicians and contractors combined to add to wasteful expenditure in defence acquisition. Those in favour of the programme argued it would create competition, which would ultimately save taxpayers money, and it would be a crucial back-up should the primary engine programme fall short of expectations.

Both the Bush and the Obama administrations had repeatedly called for the programme's elimination, but congressional politicians from both parties kept the programme alive.