Last week’s Paris Air Show was punctuated by unusual statements from F-35 airframe maker Lockheed Martin and engine maker Pratt & Whitney. The statements seemed to indicate a disagreement over how necessary upgrades to the F-35 engine should be implemented. However, there is less to this exchange than meets the eye. Both companies share the government’s view that an upgraded engine is needed, and Lockheed has made clear it is agnostic on what solution should be embraced. As a practical matter, the Pentagon has already made its choice: it will fund a core upgrade of Pratt’s existing F135 powerplant. Comments by a Lockheed executive were interpreted by some as challenging the Pentagon’s approach, but it seems the executive was simply laying out an optimum engineering solution to keep the fighter ahead adversaries, without reference to other considerations like cost. This is a tempest in a teapot that will have no bearing on the progress of the F-35 program. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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