A PARTNERSHIP BUILT ON TRADITION AND DISTINCTION Mark Buongiorno
Pratt & Whitney (P&W), one of the world’s best known aircraft-engine manufacturers, has been supplying power plants to the Royal Air Force (RAF) for more than 80 years. The ultrareliable DC-3 Dakota (C-47 Skytrain) that served with such distinction in the Second World War, and which is still in service with the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, is powered by two P&W Twin Wasp radial engines. The partnership continues today with P&W engines installed in RAF Agusta A109E and Bell 412EP Griffin helicopters, Beechcraft King Air B200 multi-engine trainers and the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft. The RAF’s next combat fast jet, the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, will maintain this tradition as it will be powered by P&W’s F135-PW-600 – a derivative of the F-22 Raptor’s F119-PW-100 turbofan. The RAF and P&W teams involved in the F-35B programme meet regularly through the supervision of Lieutenant General Christopher C Bogdan’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, based in Arlington, Virginia. They need to meet frequently because the F135-PW-600 engine that has been developed for the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B is the most complex engine being produced for the three variants of the Lightning II. Fortunately, Mark Buongiorno who became head of the F135 engine programme in February 2015 is a big fan of the RAF: “The RAF is a great customer. We have always found them to be extremely knowledgeable, technically competent and great leaders.”
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Vice President, Pratt & Whitney, F-135 engine programme
According to Buongiorno, the F135PW-600 reproduces the STOVL capability of the Harrier jump jet before it was withdrawn from RAF and Royal Navy (RN) service. The difference is that it combines a fifth-generation aircraft and associated systems with a fifth-generation engine. To do this they have partnered with Rolls-Royce, who developed the Harrier’s Pegasus engine and vertical take-off and landing capability. “When it comes to the propulsion system, it is P&W partnered with Rolls-Royce. The B model has some unique features in the lift system. There is the P&W main engine, but there is also a lift-fan and roll posts in a three-bearing swivel module, which are the enablers that facilitate the STOVL capability of the aircraft.” With the introduction of such a key platform for the RAF and RN, reliability and cost of ownership are crucial. In terms
of cost, Buongiorno explains, “We made a commitment back in 2009 to deliver this current engine and its capabilities for the price of our last product.” There has been good progress on this commitment. “Since its introduction, we have reduced the cost of production by more than half,” he confirms. In terms of reliability things appear to be equally optimistic. “Right now in 2016 we are meeting reliability milestones that we weren’t ask to meet until 2020,” says Buongiorno. He concludes by pointing out that “the RAF took possession of its first aircraft in 2012 and, today, Rolls-Royce and P&W are working together in the UK to stand up a propulsion support capability to be ready when the first aircraft arrives at RAF Marham in 2018”. It is, therefore, quite possible that the partnership between P&W and the RAF may well last for another half-century at least.