F135 Engine | Citizens Against Government Waste

F135 Engine

More than a decade ago, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) led and won the fight to eliminate funding for the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). But, like many other projects and programs that were left for dead in Washington, D.C., there have been efforts to resurrect a second engine.

The latest version of the JSF features upgrades including advanced electronic capabilities, improved targeting, and extra missile capacity. These improvements have driven the need for additional cooling in the engine. Supporters of the alternate engine saw this as an opening to claim there should again be funding for a second engine, this time under the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP).

However, many of the same arguments against the alternate engine in the first go-round still apply today. Rather than spending billions of taxpayer dollars on the AETP, it would be far more practical and cost-effective to modify the existing F135 engine through the Engine Core Upgrade (ECU) program.

Competition between two rival companies trying to develop two separate engines would cost the government immensely. The Pentagon would have to underwrite two teams of engineers, as well as duplicate sets of tooling, parts, assembly sites, repair facilities, supply chains, management systems, workforces, and every other cost of production.

The ECU is the better course to pursue for several additional reasons. Crucially, the AETP would not meet the needs of the entire JSF fleet. It is incompatible with the Marine Corp’s F-35B variant, and would require substantial airframe modifications to fit into the F-35A and F-35C. As noted by Air Force Secretary Kendall on March 10, 2023, the AETP price tag would mean the Air Force would be able to purchase fewer JSFs.

Employing a second engine would also create a second supply chain, complicate maintenance and sustainment, and divert money from much-needed modernization efforts across the Air Force. It would make the JSF program, which already suffers from a poor readiness rate, even harder to maintain.

CAGW and CCAGW will continue to lead the way to prevent billions of dollars from being wasted on a second engine for the JSF.

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