Five Giants Join the Race for USAF’s Next-Generation Fighter Jet Engine

USAF wants new engines for the F-35 fleet, and five industry giants are working on it 6 photos
Photo: U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Kaylee Dubois
F-35 Fighter JetF-35 Fighter JetF-35 Fighter JetF-35 Fighter Jet EngineF-35 Fighter Jet
The U.S. Air Force is getting serious about developing a so-called adaptive engine for its current and future fighter jets and is now putting the money where its mouth is. Five giants in the industry were recently awarded contracts worth a whopping $4.9 billion.
Defense News reports that General Electric, Pratt &Whitney, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman were awarded contracts worth around $975 million each for the prototype phase of the Next Generation Adaptive Propulsion Program.

Until now, only GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney were developing engines as part of the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) with the goal of eventually producing a replacement engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter.

An adaptive engine is called that way because it can operate in different modes, focusing on either peak performance or high fuel efficiency. As Alex Hollings from Sandboxxx News explains, fighter jets are traditionally equipped with engines that can guarantee performance without worrying about fuel efficiency, while cargo and other types of aircraft focus on efficiency, with diminished performance. This new adaptive engine would be able to deliver both.

Future pilots could operate a high-thrust mode when in combat, for example, and switch to a low fuel-burning mode during patrol missions. And the transition would be seamless. Therefore, this adaptive cycle engine would improve the F-35’s range, thrust, and fuel efficiency.

The plans for replacing the F-35s’ engines were controversial from the beginning, with opponents calling this upgrade “unneeded and expensive,” while others, such as Hollings, believe that these new engines might even take too long to be fitted on the F-35, but will most likely become essential for the next-generation fighters.

According to USAF, this prototype engine project, from the design phase to the final weapon system integration, is expected to be completed by July 2032.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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