Pentagon ends 2nd engine program

LYNN – The Pentagon on Monday notified the General Electric Co. it will not hire the company to manufacture an alternative engine for the next-generation F-35 fighter plane.GE, in partnership with British manufacturer Rolls Royce Group, had hoped to serve as a secondary supplier of the engine. President Barack Obama was against the idea, as was Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other ranking military officers.Work on the alternative engine was stopped a month ago, saving $1 million a day on a project Gates described as wasteful.When Congress passed a long-delayed 2011 defense budget earlier this month, it contained no money for the second engine and the Pentagon then made the decision to kill it. In congressional testimony Gates said the second engine would require another $3 billion to develop. The Pentagon notified Congress and GE/Rolls Royce of its decision to scrap the alternative engine plan. The resounding “no” to the contract was not news to GE, but did seemingly bring months of political jockeying to an end.In February, GE spokesman Richard Gorham in Lynn said killing the alternate engine for the JSF could translate to a loss of 300 to 400 jobs at the River Works aircraft engine plant on Western Avenue. The jobs would be lost through attrition, he said, noting more jobs would be lost at GE’s primary jet engine factory in Ohio.The JSF is slated to replace all existing U.S. Navy, Marine and Air Force combat fighter jets over the next two decades. The decision by the Pentagon leaves GE out of that production stream. The JSF engine will be manufactured by Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney.Jeffrey Crosby, president of IUE-CWA Local 201, which represents the majority of union workers at the GE plant in Lynn, said the news was disappointing. “If this holds up, that is a disappointment for us. The impact would be down the road. And there is time to make sure we have other work to maintain and grow employment in the Lynn plant,” he said. “But we are still hopeful this isn’t the end of the road for the alternative engine.”

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