Pratt & Whitney accepted a government request to negotiate a fixed-price incentive contract instead of the originally planned cost-plus deal and hopes to sign for a fourth batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engines within weeks.
F-35 prime Lockheed Martin signed a fixed-price incentive contract for the $3.9 billion low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 4 of the fighter on Nov. 19.
This covers 31 F-35s powered by Pratt F135 engines to be procured under a separate contract.
Bennett Croswell, vice president of F135/F119 programs, says that Pratt proposed LRIP 4 prices based on a cost-reduction plan targeted on getting the F135 down to the same cost as the F-22’s F119 engine by the 250th delivery.
“We developed a ‘should-cost’ curve that was independently validated by the [Pentagon’s] Joint Assessment Team and [consulting firm] A.T. Kearney,” Croswell says. “We are now talking to the JSF program office about our ability to go below the should-cost curve.”
LRIP 4 is the first batch to be priced based on the should-cost curve, but Croswell says the 20 flight-test and production F135s delivered so far have tracked the curve required to achieve the cost target by the 250th engine.
Lot 4 will cover 18 conventional-takeoff-and-landing/carrier-variant (CTOL/CV) and 19 short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) engines. It will include fixed prices on lift-system components for the Stovl engines, costs for which are less mature.
Croswell says, “We’re just starting down the curve on Stovl.” The first production Stovl engine, and first production lift-fan from Rolls-Royce, will be delivered soon, he adds, acknowledging the higher risk in agreeing to fixed prices for the lift system.
Pratt expects initial service release (ISR) for the Stovl engine in December, essentially completing development of the F135 except for continuing support of F-35 flight testing. ISR for the CTOL/CV engine was achieved in January, launching production.
Meanwhile, Lockheed has resumed Stovl flight testing at NAS Patuxent River, Md., after a hiatus, but has yet to restart vertical landings. Because of the delays, development of the F-35B Stovl variant looks likely to be stretched out, and could be canceled.
“If Stovl slips to the right, there would not be much impact on engine cost because of the commonality between the variants. But the lift system would be impacted,” Croswell says, adding, “I would be surprised to see the Stovl variant go away.”