GE Aerospace exec: Air Force and GE are ‘one team’ on the XA100 engine

A big Ohio employer, GE is working closely with AFLCMC and Propulsion Directorate leaders

GE Aerospace and Air Force propulsion leaders are working as “one team” on GE’s prototype Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) engine, overseen by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, a GE executive said Thursday.

Evendale-based GE has had plenty of visits from Air Force leaders “to really kick the tires, meet the team, see the engine ... and just truly understand so they can make the most informed decision,” David Tweedie, GE Edison Works vice president and general manager for advanced products, said in a phone press conference Thursday.

“It really feels like one team,” Tweedie said.

GE Aerospace’s prototype XA100 engine is being designed and tested under the Air Force’s AETP program, offering what GE says is greater range and flexibility.

The Air Force faces two broad choices: Choose one of two competing AETP prototypes between engine-makers GE and Pratt & Whitney — or approve a more budget-friendly upgrade to the current Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

“I don’t have odds on how the final decision is going to be,” Tweedie said Thursday. “Again, we are going to be eagerly waiting to see that.”

But he added: “We see quite a bit of enthusiasm and interest from Air Force senior leadership, and at the working level, it’s just been a tremendous partnership, really over the last 15 or 14 years ... with the Propulsion Directorate and the (Air Force) Life Cycle Management Center.”

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, as is the F-35 Joint Program Office. The Propulsion Directorate at Tinker Air Force Base reports to AFLCMC headquarters at Wright-Patterson.

On the possibility of a more incremental engine upgrade, Tweedie said GE sees significant differences between the AETP and what he called the “alternative upgrade path.”

“We really feel strongly that the full capability of an AETP solution that the engine itself can provide, both forward-looking as well as easily retrofittable into existing assets, is the way to go,” he said.

Tweedie hailed the Air Force decision late last year to award GE a contract extension for continued work on the engine, with a value of up to $203 million.

GE now has 400 engineers on the program, Tweedie said.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has pushed for a decision on the AETP program. “I think we need to make a decision about the future of the F-35 and get on with it,” Breaking Defense quoted Kendall as saying last year.

“We are looking forward to seeing a decision in the president’s budget that will come out in the next few weeks,” Tweedie said Thursday. “All eyes are on that to be sure.”

GE says the engine is made to switch between high-thrust and high-efficiency modes, allowing it to adapt to just about any situation a military jet could encounter. The engine has been designed for the Lockheed Martin F-35A and F-35C, but GE has told the War Zone web site that it is looking at using it to power the F-35B stealth fighter, as well.

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