GE, Rolls Royce end quest for second F-35 engine

Citing economic and budgetary uncertainty, GE and Rolls Royce have ended their effort to self-fund development of a second engine for the F-35 Lightning II jet fighter.

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General Electric Co. (GE) and Rolls Royce Holdings PLC on Dec. 2 announced that they will end a self-funded program to build the F-136, an alternate engine for the F-35 Lightning II. GE and Rolls Royce had fought for the last 10 years to get U.S. government funding for the engine, which was positioned to provide backup and competition for the F-135, the current engine on the F-35 made by Pratt & Whitney.

"Difficult circumstances are converging that impact the potential benefit of a self-funded development effort," Dan McCormick, president of the companies' fighter engine team, said in a statement.

About 50 employees will be effected by the decision and will be reassigned at GE and Rolls Royce. At the peak, nearly 1,000 people were working on the effort.

President Obama and the U.S. Department of Defense have stated for the last two years that funding a second engine was not a priority and refused to place it in the defense budget. Members of U.S. Congress, however, disagreed and tried repeatedly to budget money for the F-136. However, in light of pending U.S. defense budget cutbacks, including a threat of reduced F-35 orders, GE and Rolls Royce decided that continuation of the engine program is not viable.