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Pentagon budget 2024: USAF selects F135 Engine Core Upgrade to power F-35

The US Air Force (USAF) has elected to end participation in the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), intended to result in the development of an advanced engine for Block 4 of the Lockheed Martin F-35. The service will instead advance the Pratt & Whitney F135 Engine Core Upgrade (ECU).

“We needed something that was affordable and could support all [F-35] variants,” said USAF Secretary Frank Kendall on 10 March.

The F-35 Block 4 requires about 25% more electricity in order to power its larger computer processor and more complex weapons systems setup.

“We're pleased to see the President's Budget includes funding for the Engine Core Upgrade,” said Jill Albertelli, president of Pratt & Whitney's military engines division. “All F-35 variants need fully enabled Block 4 capabilities as soon as possible, and with this funding, we can deliver upgraded engines starting in 2028.”

Rivals General Electric and Pratt & Whitney both experimented with prototype engine components for AETP, which was meant to result in an engine with a ‘third stream,' capable of providing air to either to the engine – as do most fighters, useful for dogfighting – or bypassing the engine core to provide greater fuel efficiency.

“This budget fails to consider rising geopolitical tensions and the need for revolutionary capabilities that only the XA100 engine can provide by 2028,” said General Electric in a statement. “Nearly 50 bipartisan members of Congress wrote in support of advanced engine programs like ours because they recognize these needs, in addition to the role competition can play in reducing past cost overruns.”

GE said it will “continue to advance” the XA100 engine, “while pursuing funding support for [fiscal year] 2024.”

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