US Senate votes to fund F-35 alternate engine

The US Senate yesterday approved $560 million (R4170 million) to continue work on an alternate F-35 engine built by General Electric Co. and Rolls-Royce Group Plc, defying a White House veto threat.
The legislation now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law.
Administration officials have said the president would consider a veto if the funding for the engine threatens the overall F-35 program, but the bill fully funds the Pentagon’s $6 billion (R44 billion) request to buy 30 F-35 fighters, built by the Lockheed Martin Corp.
The bill’s backers hope that inclusion of full funding for the versatile aircraft will be enough to stave off a veto.
A White House spokesperson earlier in the day declined to say whether Obama would veto the bill.
The bill also extends hate-crime legislation to cover gays and lesbians, a measure that drew the objection of Republicans who said Democrats were exploiting the military to advance liberal social positions.
Backers of the alternate engine program say the competition will cut engine costs in the long run and reduce the risk of a fleet-wide grounding because of an engine flaw.
The Pentagon has said the alternate engine is a waste of money, and could reduce the number of F-35s it can ultimately afford to purchase.
Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, is already building an F-35 engine.
The alternate engine could still be discontinued even without a presidential veto, as it could be cut from separate legislation that actually provides the funding for Pentagon operations.
The bill does end two other programs that the Pentagon has sought to discontinue over the objections of some in Congress: the F-22 fighter plane, and the VH-71 presidential helicopter, both made by Lockheed, as well as the ground vehicle portion of the Army’s modernization drive.
The bill also ends the C-17 cargo plane program, but that Boeing Co program is likely to be kept alive in the spending bill still pending in Congress.
The bill also authorizes a multiyear purchase of Boeing’s F/A-18 fighters.

Pic: Rolls Royce jet engine