Raytheon Lobbyist Blasts Lockheed Executive For Supporting F-35 Re-engining
A lobbyist for F-35 propulsion supplier Pratt & Whitney has released a blistering statement that attacks Lockheed Martin for continuing to support a controversial re-engining proposal, accusing the airframer of subverting the U.S. military’s plans to field a “sixth-generation fighter” to maximize profits from extending production of the Lightning II.
Lockheed’s “game plan has always been to delay or negate the need for a sixth-generation fighter competition, while unnecessarily spending tens of billions of dollars in an attempt to extend the life and longevity of their [F-35] contract,” said Jeff Shockey, senior vice president of Global Government Relations for RTX (formerly known as Raytheon Technologies), the parent company of Pratt.
Shockey’s statement appears to be a reaction to comments on June 21 at the Paris Air Show by Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of Lockheed’s Aeronautics division, which builds the F-35. Ulmer told Aerospace DAILY that he continues to support the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), which proposes to replace the F-35’s F135 powerplant with production versions of either the GE Aerospace XA100 or Pratt XA101 adaptive turbofans.
Although Pratt is the F-35’s current propulsion supplier and a contender for the AETP program, the competition is seen as a threat to the engine-maker’s current monopoly on the propulsion system for the world’s largest fighter production program.
Shockey’s comments suggest the engine-maker believes Lockheed is pushing an agenda at odds with the interests of the U.S. military. By invoking the “sixth-generation fighter,” Shockey implies that he believes Lockheed may want to set-up a re-engined F-35 as an alternative to the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which seeks to field an advanced new fighter in the 2030s.
“Lockheed Martin proposing AETP for the F-35 undermines Pentagon leadership, taxpayers and warfighters. Once again, they are trying to pull a fast one on Congress,” Shockey said.
The comments by RTX's top lobbyist enflame an already tense stand-off in Congress over the fate of the AETP program. A year ago, the U.S. Air Force actively campaigned to win support for AETP to re-engine the F-35 with a propulsion system that is more fuel efficient and able to absorb significantly greater waste heat. But the Air Force abandoned the re-engining effort in the fiscal 2024 budget request sent to Congress in March.
Some lawmakers still support the AETP program though, and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has proposed legislation to authorize funding to extend design and testing work through the end of fiscal 2024.
As lawmakers debate the future of the program, Shockey’s comments reveal a deep fissure between the aircraft and propulsion supplier in the F-35 program.
Lockheed officials responded by noting that Ulmer expressed support for the AETP program overall—not GE’s XA100 concept, specifically.
“We stand ready to support and continue to work with the U.S. government on the capability and performance upgrades that best support their requirements for the F-35 for decades to come—including an engine upgrade,” a Lockheed spokesperson said. “AETP technologies deliver more power and greater cooling capability, which is required as we modernize the F-35 beyond Block 4.”